At UCLA’s Semel Institute, Bita Golban-Moghaddam is getting ready for a treatment called Transcranial magnetic stimulation or TMS.

“It sounds like science fiction. It feels like science fiction, but it is reality,” said Dr. Aaron Slan, psychiatrist at UCLA’s TMS Clinical and Research Service, one of the largest providers of TMS in the country. He says they use an electromagnet to deliver gentle pulses to a specific part of the patient’s brain.

“We typically treat at an area called the left torso lateral pre-frontal cortex, which is approximately right here on the brain,” Slan said, pointing to the specific area.

Golban-Moghaddam has bipolar disorder and has been on medication for more than 20 years. She says as she’s gotten older, her manic episodes have improved, but she still battles severe depression that has left her on disability, unable to work.

“I just couldn’t walk, couldn’t get up and I had a lot of fatigue and pain,” she said.

Her doctor suggested TMS as another option. Patients typically undergo sessions five days a week, excluding weekends for about seven weeks. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to over an hour, depending on the individual’s needs. Golban-Moghaddam says the treatment feels like a constant tapping in her head, but not painful.

“Because I’m very sensitive and because it’s every day in the same place, it can be intense,” she said.

Still, she says it’s well worth any discomfort. She started to notice the benefits after about a week.

“My mood is more up, and I’m more positive, and I try to use the time I have during the day more efficiently, being more productive instead of laying down and sleeping,” Golban-Moghaddam said.

“Sixty-percent of people show very significant improvement or remission of their symptoms, which is slightly higher than the medication response or remission rate of about 50%,” Slan said.

He says each treatment is customized to the patient’s specific brain activity. Common side effects, including a light headache and fatigue.

“The side effects are better. The effects often occur sooner and the effect size, which is how much effect you can get and the number of patients who actually benefits is oftentimes greater than with medications,” Slan said.

Golban-Moghaddam says thanks to TMS, she’s been able to stop her pain medication and lower her doses of her psych meds. She says her biggest problem now is pacing herself.

“I feel like I have energy. I can do this, and I can go here, and I can go there,” she said.

All thanks to a therapy, doctors say, have the power to literally change our minds.