Heart of the High Plains: Treating Depression in the Panhandle

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Depression is common, chronic and can damage quality of life.  There are studies that indicate that as much as twelve percent of Americans suffer from depression.  Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or TMS, could impact that statistic drastically, according to Tim Bowles, Senior Department Administrator in the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center- Department of Psychiatry.

 “This machine, which basically is a helmet, with a magnet in it, sends these pulses into the pre-frontal cortex and also on the other side of the brain so it regulates the firing of the brain and actually creates what is called new neuropathways,” he explained. 

TMS is FDA approved for use in patients with high anxiety and or medicine-resistant depression.  It’s covered by most insurances.  The problem?  According to Bowles, there’s not a machine in the city.

“Just for the fact for what we’re going to be able use it with, possibly to some research, and at the core of treating depression for people who can’t find an answer– yes, I’m very excited to have it here,”  he said. 

That’s why TTUHSC is hoping to get funding from the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health to get a TMS machine in Amarillo.

 “On occasion, the Laura Bush Institute gets an opportunity to do something that really makes a difference and this is it,” LWB Institute Senior Director Angela Knapp Eggers said.  “We are so fired up about this piece of equipment because this transcranial magnetic stimulation machine is going to change the lives of so many people in our community and beyond.”    

Bowles continued.

“Some of our faculty that work in gender-based psychiatry– looking forward to working with those folks to treat pregnant women who may not be able to be on their medication.  Also, those that have post-partum depression– to see what kind of effect TMS has on them.”

There is minimal to no down time with the treatment.  Bowles says there are virtually no side effects.  Each treatment lasts about 20 minutes.  A typical course would be around 30 or so treatments. 

“You know when you hear about a lady who hasn’t been out of the house in 30 years and she’s able to go through TMS therapy and she’s able to start showing up with a little bit more makeup on, getting her hair done– that means she’s getting out in the community,”  Bowles said.  “To see what that meant to her– what price is there that you’re willing to pay  to be able to function in life and be what you want to be.”

Researchers project that treatment will result in remission for two out of three patients.  Future protocols could include treatment for OCD, addiction, bi-polar, schizophrenia, PTSD, ADHD.  There’s even interest in treating dementia and Alzheimer’s.  The technology is not for use in patients under the age of 18.

This machine would be the only machine between here and Oklahoma City and Dallas. 

Contact the TTUHSC Department of Psychiatry for more information or to be put on the wait list.

Money is being raised for the TMS machine at this year’s Power of the Purse luncheon and purse auction.  This event will celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the Institute and will feature former first lady Mrs. Laura Bush.

The event is on Wednesday, April 11th at the Amarillo Civic Center, Heritage Ballroom from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Individual tickets are $100.  For more information, contact Angela Knapp Eggers at
806.414.9941 or at  angela.knapp@ttuhsc.edu

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