Finding the Music Again

Transcranial magnetic stimulation helps relieve major depression in UF Health Jacksonville patient.

Finding the Music Again

By Wesley Taff

Steve Chapman felt miserable when he returned home early one morning after playing an annual corporate music gig with his eight-piece band. He stowed the equipment
in the front room of his home and didn’t touch it for eight months.

Chapman was struggling with major depression in the spring of 2021, and although he was taking medication and being treated with psychotherapy, he wasn’t feeling better. The COVID-19 pandemic added to his declining mental health and he fell deeper into depression.

“The medication I was taking wasn’t working for my depression, and I was feeling helpless,” Chapman said. “I also had several chronic health issues that added to the feeling that I was falling into a dark pit.”

Transcranial magnetic stimulation

The following February, Chapman saw ads on social media for a new treatment for major depressive disorder called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. TMS is an FDA approved therapy for individuals who have treatment-resistant depression — a condition in which antidepressant medications have failed or their side effects are intolerable.

TMS uses a focused electromagnet to stimulate underactive cells in targeted areas of the brain. The magnetic pulses generate an electrical current and raise brain activity to normal levels.

Although Chapman was retired, he was familiar with the technology used for TMS treatment, because he’d worked in radiology, mainly PET-CT and MRI scans.

Finding a TMS provider

Chapman was receiving psychotherapy treatment from Brian Celso, Ph.D, a UF Health Jacksonville surgical psychologist in the department of surgery. Chapman inquired about TMS treatment and Celso referred him to Daniel Lewis, M.D, a UF Health Jacksonville psychiatrist.

After reviewing his medical history and medication complications, Lewis decided Chapman was a good candidate. He showed Chapman the TMS machine and described the process.

Treatment sessions for TMS last 30 minutes and typically are performed five days per week over a six-week period.

Let the music play

Chapman started TMS in April 2022, and after two sessions, he said he felt better physically and mentally.

“It was amazing. I thought, ‘Is this a placebo reaction?’” Chapman said. “Suddenly, I felt connected again, with my wife, family and hobbies.”

Lewis said about 75% of his patients respond positively to TMS. Within the first week or two, patients identify improvements such as energy level, concentration or being more interested in things.

“Mr. Chapman was really frustrated and disheartened about not feeling that spark of joy in life,” Lewis said. “I’m very happy this treatment worked for him and his family.”

Several of his physical symptoms started to improve, Chapman said, including pain, sleep and heart issues. It is well-documented that when patients are treated for depression, their medical comorbidities are better controlled.

Chapman completed TMS therapy in May 2022 and feels like he’s back to his normal self. His wife, Rebekah Chapman, immediately saw the change.

“After the second day of treatment, Steve was a whole new person,” Rebekah said. “He was being more responsive, physically more loving and more romantic. I got my husband back.”

A few months after treatment, Chapman’s band performed at a corporate gig they had played the year before. This time, however, his love for performing was back.

“After the gig ended, I had a whole new outlook on life,” Chapman said. “Now, when I pick up the guitar, I enjoy playing and feeling connected with people again, especially my family.”