In depression, TMS functions by stimulating the underactive areas of the brain. However, anxiety is believed to be a process of a misfiring of electrical signals with a constant chatter between different brain regions. Hence, anxious minds have both overactive and hypoactive areas.
Especially noted, are abnormally low levels of activity in the left area of your brain known as the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is not only your brain’s “executive control” center but also plays a role in regulating your emotions. More importantly, a segment of the prefrontal cortex dubbed as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) helps your cognitive reasoning processes overpower your emotional processes.
Hence, an underactive prefrontal cortex will lack the potential to regulate your emotions through cognitive appraisal, putting you at risk of anxiety and depression.
The DLPFC is connected to another almond-shaped brain region referred to as the amygdala (the hub of fear and emotions in your brains).
In people with anxiety, the amygdala classically shows overactivity in response to anxiety cues. That said, it is the hyperactivity of the “right” amygdala that is shown to drive undue and disruptive worrying defining an anxiety disorder.
Because the right side of your brain fuels anxiety, blunting the activity levels in the right hemisphere may help ease anxiety. Thus, applying slow, inhibitory, low-frequency magnetic pulses via TMS to the right side of the brain, could inhibit and calm down the hyperactive circuits of the brain on that side.
At the same time, TMS can also help buffer the activity levels of the DLFPC. Altogether, TMS may help quieten an anxiety-ridden brain.
Nonetheless, there is no standard intervention protocol for the use of TMS in people with anxiety.