Trained as both a psychiatrist and neurologist, Mark George, M.D., always has had a primary interest in studying emotion in the brain. Working as both a clinician and researcher, George has been able to bring an innovative technology to the hospital called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS, which non-invasively stimulates the brain by applying magnetic stimulation to the scalp.
George was featured in the PBS show, “NOVA scienceNOW,” on his work treating depression and pain using TMS. He got involved with this technology while doing a research fellowship in London in 1989. At the time, this was the only hospital that had this machine and the idea of brain stimulation was a radical idea. He then spent four years at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, which also had advanced brain imaging and new brain stimulation methods like TMS. He performed the first-ever studies of TMS for depression while at the NIH. He purchased a TMS machine after beginning his job at MUSC in 1995 and has been using the technology ever since.
This new technology not only answers questions on how the brain works, but is also used to treat patients with depression. In October 2008, almost 13 years after George began his research, TMS became an FDA-approved treatment for depression.
“There are now between five and 20 patients every day in the United States who are now free of depression, who never would have been if this technology hadn’t made it to market,” he said. “I just hope these technologies are nothing but stepping stones to the next generation of technologies that are even better.”
Although the technology’s potential still is being discovered, its success in treating depression has been one of the most rewarding successes in George’s career.
“I was talking to a patient who had been struggling with depression for five years, and she just now got better with the help of TMS. I swear that is just as good as any award, even better in some ways. If you’re lucky, you can get those kinds of rewards nearly every day.”
Brain Stimulation Laboratory