Transcranial magnetic stimulation: a historical evaluation and future prognosis of therapeutically relevant ethical concerns

J Med Ethics. 2011 Mar;37(3):137-43. doi: 10.1136/jme.2010.039966. Epub 2010 Nov 24.


Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive neurostimulatory and neuromodulatory technique increasingly used in clinical and research practices around the world. Historically, the ethical considerations guiding the therapeutic practice of TMS were largely concerned with aspects of subject safety in clinical trials. While safety remains of paramount importance, the recent US Food and Drug Administration approval of the Neuronetics NeuroStar TMS device for the treatment of specific medication-resistant depression has raised a number of additional ethical concerns, including marketing, off-label use and technician certification. This article provides an overview of the history of TMS and highlights the ethical questions that are likely arise as the therapeutic use of TMS continues to expand.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Bioethical Issues
  • Ethics, Medical
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / ethics*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / history
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods