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ALBANY – Pinnacle Behavioral Health’s Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy has been a great success.

In its first year, there have been more than 3,000 TMS sessions at the McKown Road office, and the results have echoed those of other similar facilities across the United States.

“Over 80 percent of our clients showed significant improvement of their depression, and of that 80 percent, 50 percent went into full remission,” said Rocco Pezzulo, Pinnacle’s Director of Operations.

TMS treatment involves the use of an electromagnetic coil located within the helmet which is then placed on the patient’s head, directed at the left prefrontal cortex – the area of the brain that is associated with depression.   Each session lasts about 20 minutes, during which, electromagnetic pulses are sent through the coil to the brain at two-second intervals, followed by 20 seconds of rest. The technician gradually increases the intensity of treatment until the therapeutic dose is reached to ensure the patient can tolerate the stimulation.

“It feels like a little tapping on the side of the head. We often describe the sound as being similar to that of a woodpecker,” said Pezzulo. “For the first two or three sessions, It can feel a little unusual, but by the fourth or fifth session, most find it very therapeutic and some even sleep through it.”

Patients go through 7-8 weeks of TMS sessions. During the first month, patients must visit every weekday in order for the treatment to “train the brain and regulate mood,” said Pezzulo. Then, treatments are typically scaled down to 2-3 times per week over the final 2-4 weeks, although patients have the option of continuing daily treatments if necessary.

“Pinnacle offers morning, afternoon and evening sessions in order to accommodate our Patients’ busy schedules,” said Pezzulo. “People often ask us what our hours are. We’re open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.”

Pinnacle doesn’t rely on TMS alone to treat patients experiencing severe depression. They complement TMS treatment with some of its other therapeutic programs, such as Tai Chi, yoga and Qi Gong as well as offering a weekly TMS Support Group.  This group is open to any individuals or family members/loved ones who are interested in TMS, patients who are currently in the program and those who have completed treatment.

“Our results have been slightly better than the national average” as a result of pairing TMS with other services, said Pezzulo.

Although TMS is not the first line of treatment offered, patients who haven’t had relief from medications or therapy are perfect candidates.  For those who have received it, the difference can be striking, said Pezzulo. “By the time they complete treatment, patients appear brighter and have an overall improved quality of life.”