Blog | TMS and Virtual Reality: looking to the future

Can you imagine being able to improve the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease? This is already a reality at Ace Alzheimer Center Barcelona. In our new Neuromodulation Unit, we apply different non-invasive brain stimulation techniques, and therefore painless, to treat the symptoms associated with Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders, with the aim of improving people's quality of life.

The concept of neuromodulation is complex and very broad but, broadly speaking, it is a way of training the brain by sending stimuli that facilitate the communication of neurons and the responses of the central nervous system.

Within the field of neuromodulation, there are different non-invasive techniques that, through magnetic and electrical waves, stimulate different areas of the brain. One of these techniques that we use at Ace is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).

How does TMS work?

TMS is a technique that, using state-of-the-art tools, allows us to modulate the activity of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral nervous system (nerves and muscles) in a non-invasive way. This means that the procedures we use do not involve any type of penetration but act on the surface, making it a safe and painless treatment.

Through the use of a stimulator, which we call a coil, the magnetic stimulus is sent to the areas of the brain of interest, depending on the symptom we decide to intervene. The coil is placed gently on top of the patient's head, just in the area to be stimulated. Inside, the coil hides a coil that creates a magnetic field and generates a stimulus capable of overcoming the skin and bone barrier and inducing a secondary electric current directly in the neurons, modifying their activity.

The stimulation is painless and can be personalized according to the brain characteristics of each individual thanks to neuronavigation, a virtual guide based on the cranial magnetic resonance of each patient to reach precisely and effectively the brain area to be stimulated. The healthcare personnel, highly trained in the technique, are able to adjust the direction of the stimulus generated by the magnetic field at any given moment, using neuronavigation, in order to obtain a highly precise treatment.

A safe and effective symptomatic treatment

This technique has been widely studied by the scientific community. To date, more than 20,000 articles have been published in scientific journals, highlighting a safe application for patients, with little or no adverse effects.

Its efficacy and application are approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration of the United States) for the symptomatic treatment of depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and migraines. Moreover, promising results are being observed in the field of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease or primary progressive aphasias.

TMS improves the main symptoms affecting people with cognitive disorders, including memory, attention, executive functions, language or visuospatial function. Likewise, its great beneficial effect on mood and sleep disorders further increases the effectiveness of this technique, which is reflected in an overall improvement in quality of life.

Technology, our great ally

The Neuromodulation Unit is a unit that looks ahead and takes advantage of the great potential of new technologies to offer precision medicine and personalized treatments. That is why at Ace we combine brain stimulation with immersive stimulation through virtual reality glasses.

Which is the added value of virtual reality? It increases the power of stimulation through specific and entertaining games and activities. Patients, while receiving brain stimulation, are immersed in a digital world in which they can be traveling through a city, practicing a sport, or preparing a coffee. The combination of both technologies allows a comprehensive, effective and more attractive cognitive and motor stimulation, capable of increasing adherence to this treatment.

Always looking to the future

At Ace we are always looking to the future and we have formed a multidisciplinary team highly qualified in neuromodulation techniques and stimulation through Virtual Reality to continue innovating in the field of neurodegenerative diseases and contribute to making Alzheimer's history.

As Dr. Boada, founder and medical director of Ace, says, "Who could say that an Alzheimer's patient could start again? Who could think that an Alzheimer's patient could start again to paint, write, read, sing or sew?". With the new Unit, we want to complete that sentence by exclaiming "Who could think that an Alzheimer's patient could innovate?".


Neurologist, Clinical Head and responsible of the Neuromodulation Unit at Ace Alzheimer Center Barcelona