Does TMS Therapy Cause Memory Loss?

Sometimes, individuals experiencing mental health issues struggle with brain fog, scattered thoughts, or forgetfulness leading to general feelings of disorganization. While both depression and anxiety can cause memory issues, treatments for these conditions, such as medications or ECT, can sometimes further exacerbate these already bothersome symptoms.

Because transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in Olympia is the latest and greatest depression treatment to hit the market, you might naturally have some reservations about brain treatments causing memory loss. TMS is well-tolerated and one of the safest treatments you can undergo. Let us help you put some of your concerns to rest.

Memory Loss: It’s Complicated

Memory loss is difficult to attribute to just one thing. Substance use, poor sleep, medications, stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems are just a few of the things that can influence your memory. For example, you can have the following:

  • Motivated Forgetting: The primary issue associated with depression. You cannot remember things well when upset, stressed, anxious, or in emotional or physical pain. Your brain avoids forming these memories as a protection mechanism.
  • Failure to Store: Something such as a traumatic event, poor sleep, or stress prevents crucial information from entering your long-term memory.
  • Interference: When overloaded, you can have competing memories preventing you from recalling everything. The more tired and stressed you are, the more chaotic everything can become.
  • Retrieval Failure: When you are tired or feel drowsy from medications or substances, you cannot bring something to mind when needed, even though you know you know the information.

Known Causes of Memory Loss

Unfortunately, there are many reasons you could have memory problems. One or a combination of these risk factors can contribute to premature or significant memory loss.

  1. Depression Treatments: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants are two medications linked to a decline in overall cognitive function or memory problems. Drugs such as tranquilizers, anti-anxiety prescriptions, antihistamines, and pain medications can cause memory loss. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is another treatment for severe major depressive disorder (MDD) that can cause temporary or permanent short-term memory loss and confusion. This happens because therapists use small currents of electricity to incite short seizures to alter your brain chemistry, reversing your depression symptoms.
  2. Head Trauma: Traumatic brain injuries and minor concussions can trigger memory problems even if you never lost consciousness. They can all have a cumulative effect.
  3. Poor Sleep: Continual sleep deprivation typically from an underlying condition such as sleep apnea, insomnia, or other sleep disorders.
  4. Medical Conditions Hypothyroidism, vitamin B-12 deficiency, and brain infections or tumors are just a few of the diagnoses contributing to memory loss.
  5. Neurodegenerative Diseases: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other dementia diseases cause significant progressive memory loss.
  6. Substance Use: Alcohol or other recreational substances can impair your processing and memory, especially when mixed with other medications, as there can be a significant reaction with long-term memory effects.
  7. Age-Related Memory Degradation: If it is related to age, you will see a prolonged and steady decline instead of quick drops or sudden changes in your memory, typically resulting from a mental health issue or high stress.

So, What About Transcranial Magnetic Brain Stimulation?

TMS is a non-invasive therapy that stimulates nerve cells in the brain, called neurons, with a magnetic field. Typically, the magnetic coil is rested on your scalp over the specific area of your brain associated with your condition. This stimulation increases neurogenesis, the growth, and the proliferation of new brain cells, to restore normal function in your brain. Instead of harming memory, TMS can help memory. Researchers are currently studying this phenomenon for potential educational applications.

For example, the Journal of ECT published a study in 2016 showing no decline in cognitive function after TMS stimulation. They found improvement in some cognitive tests but attributed that to mood improvement after depression treatment. A recent study by Rosenblum and Dresler found that brain stimulation enhanced verbal learning and memory performance. Van der Plas et al. conducted a study that had similar findings to Rosenblum and Dresler; This study went further by replicating their initial results to show that TMS stimulation enhanced memory performance and encoding.

Overall, TMS research agrees that TMS does not harm cognitive functioning or cause memory deficits like other treatment options. However, research is ongoing to determine the extent of improvements TMS can have on your brain. If you are concerned about potential memory loss when considering treatment, discussing this with TMS experts is crucial. They can review your medical history and previous treatments that could increase your individual risk for memory loss regardless of TMS brain stimulation.