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TMS Mapping: What to Expect in 3 Simple Steps

female patient undergoing tms mapping at family care center

Your transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) journey starts with TMS mapping. This is a one-hour appointment during which a TMS clinician identifies the optimal location and stimulation level for your treatment. It is a painless, non-invasive and very well-tolerated procedure. 

Here’s what you can expect during the TMS mapping process.    

1. Locating the TMS Target  

The TMS clinician will start by measuring the dimensions of your head to physically locate the area of your brain that controls your motor skills. The measurements are recorded on a personalized cotton cap that you’ll wear during each visit. This is an essential step as the markings guide your clinician to where you will receive treatment. Once your measurements are complete, the coil is placed on the part of the brain that controls movement. Your clinician can visually locate this area based on your responses to the stimulation, and it will become the starting point to map your treatment location.   

2. Creating Your Treatment Map   

Next, your TMS clinician applies clinically proven measurements and calculations to locate the treatment area.  For your treatment, the regions we target are involved in the regulation of your mood and related emotions.   

3. Identifying the Treatment Intensity   

Finally, the area of the brain that controls the right hand is gently stimulated with a test pulse. This is where the magnetic dose is gradually increased until your hand twitches slightly. It helps us to identify your personalized motor threshold and determines the intensity of stimulation needed for TMS treatment.  

The motor threshold is different for each individual and is an important part of your personalized treatment journey. You’ll notice a clicking sound that usually lasts for a few seconds, followed by a pause and then a light tapping sensation on your head. This procedure will be repeated with your opposite hand. Your TMS clinician may ask you occasionally to squeeze your hand and relax it during this process to find the optimal intensity.   Your TMS treatment intensity will be calculated based on your test pulses and will slowly be increased over several sessions.    

Want to learn more? Check out this TMS mapping video featuring our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Chuck Weber.

Throughout your TMS journey, the TMS clinical team will continuously monitor and make adjustments based on your symptoms and progress.  

Once the mapping session is complete, you are ready to begin your personalized TMS treatment series.  

This information was written by Sabrina K. Segal, Ph.D., Director of Research (2/26/24) and Dr. Charles ‘Chuck’ Weber, D.O. FASAM LTC(R) US Army, Board Certified Psychiatrist / Addiction Medicine Board Certified, Chief Medical Officer of Family Care Center (2/26/24).