Brain Stimulation Therapy

The Brain Stimulation team at the MUSC Institute of Psychiatry are experts in identifying and managing hard-to-treat mental health conditions. Call now for an appointment.

Call: 843-792-5716
Dr. Short, Dr. Kalivas & Dr. George

Brain Stimulation Therapy : Psychiatry Services

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) | Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) | Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) 
| Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

What is Brain Stimulation Therapy?

Many mental health conditions respond well to treatments such as psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medication. But sometimes these treatments aren’t enough. Intense mood disorders and conditions that cause repetitive, intrusive thoughts and behaviors may be especially difficult to treat.

When mental health challenges are resistant to standard treatments, brain stimulation therapy may be an option. Brain stimulation therapy uses a mild electrical current, or magnetic field, to safely activate or inhibit specific areas of your brain. Brain stimulation therapy may stimulate nerves in the brain and affect neurotransmitters (brain chemical signals) like serotonin and dopamine. 

At MUSC Health, we use brain stimulation therapy to treat conditions including: 

  • Major Depression Disorder (MDD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Catatonia
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Nicotine or tobacco addiction
  • Schizophrenia

What Brain Stimulation Therapies Are Offered at MUSC Health? 

MUSC Health is a national leader in brain stimulation therapy, and the only comprehensive brain stimulation services provider in South Carolina. Usually, managing treatment-resistant mental health conditions with brain stimulation calls for combining it with other traditional therapies such as medication and one-on-one or group psychotherapy (talk therapy). We customize your care to your condition, overall health, and lifestyle. Specific treatments we offer include:

  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): ECT delivers brief electrical pulses to the brain from outside the body while you’re under anesthesia. It can be one of the quickest and most effective ways to improve severe depression and help people who are suicidal.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): TMS uses magnetic fields to stimulate areas of the brain that regulate mood. TMS is the least invasive form of brain stimulation therapy and may be helpful for depression, OCD, and smoking cessation. There are three types of TMS available at MUSC Health: 
    • Repetitive TMS (rTMS): rTMS is the traditional approach. It involves daily 20-minute treatments for six weeks. The short treatment time allows you to go about your other daily activities.
    • Accelerated TMS: Accelerated TMS involves multiple daily 10-minute treatments. The treatments are completed over a shorter period than rTMS, so they may improve depression symptoms more quickly.
    • SNT, or SAINT, TMS: If you suffer from major depressive disorder (MDD), you may benefit from SNT TMS. This relatively new treatment for depression uses a theta burst stimulation pattern, and consists of 10 sessions per day, each session lasting 10 minutes, for five consecutive days. 
  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS): DBS sends electrical currents to specific areas of the brain via implanted electrodes. The treatment may improve symptoms and quality of life for people with severe OCD.
  • Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS): VNS uses an implantable device to send electrical pulses through the nerve that carries messages to areas of the brain that control mood. It may improve major depression in people who haven’t responded to other types of care. 

The Institute of Psychiatry at MUSC Health is a national leader in brain stimulation therapy. Our team published the first use of TMS for depression, and performed the nation's first VNS implant for depression, first Epidural Prefrontal Cortical Stimulation (EpCS), and one of the first Focal Electrically-Administered Seizure Therapies (FEAST).

What Are Symptoms of Treatment-Resistant Mental Health Conditions?

While symptoms vary based on your specific diagnosis and unique characteristics, common signs of a treatment-resistant mental health condition include symptoms that:

  • Continue despite treatment.
  • Return after treatment worked for a period time.
  • Prevent you from daily life functions like eating, bathing, working, studying, and socializing
  • Frighten or disturb you, like seeing or hearing things that are not there.
  • Include thoughts of harming yourself or others.

If you notice any of these signs, please make an appointment to talk to a mental health professional.

Do I Need a Consultation Before Beginning Brain Stimulation Therapy? 

To determine if you are a candidate for many brain stimulation services, you will first need a consultation. We will need to review specific information about your condition like:

  • Duration of symptoms
  • Previous treatment course
  • Medications: dosage, duration, and response

This information is vital to determine if brain stimulation therapy will be a successful treatment option for you. Additionally, insurers will often not cover brain stimulation therapy without explicit description for treatment resistance.

We generally request a physician referral for consultation, and most insurers require a referral before they are willing to cover it. Here is the information requested of referrers (PDF) for consultation.

Before a consultation, we generally ask for the following, which may be completed before arriving for the consultation:

Brain Stimulation Research

At MUSC Health, we continually strive to improve mental health care and bring you the latest treatment innovations. We’re committed to helping you get the best possible outcomes. This means we offer clinical trials and treatments that aren’t widely available elsewhere. 

To learn more about how brain stimulation therapy can help with difficult-to-treat mental health conditions, please contact us Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. We accept self-referrals and provider referrals.