Background: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a new technology for noninvasively stimulating the brain. Several studies have suggested that daily stimulation of the left prefrontal cortex with TMS for 2 weeks has probable antidepressant effects. We conducted a parallel-design, double-masked, sham-controlled study to address whether 2 weeks of daily TMS over the left prefrontal cortex has antidepressant activity greater than sham.
Methods: Thirty medication-free adult outpatients with nonpsychotic, major depressive (n = 21) or bipolar (n = 9) (depressed phase) disorder who were in a current major depression (Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression [HRSD] 21-item score of >18) were treated each weekday for 2 weeks. Subjects were randomly assigned to receive either daily active (20 subjects) or sham (10 subjects) stimulation. Additionally, the 20 active subjects were equally divided between slower (5 Hz) and faster (20 Hz) frequency treatment. Antidepressant response was defined as greater than a 50% improvement in the baseline HRSD.
Results: Active TMS resulted in significantly more responders (9/20) than did sham (0/10) (chi(2) = 6.42, p <.01). The number of responders did not differ significantly between the two active cells (3/10 faster and 6/10 slower). Expressed as a percent change from baseline, active TMS subjects had significantly greater improvement on the Beck Depression Inventory as well as the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale than did those who received sham.
Conclusions: Daily left prefrontal TMS for 2 weeks significantly reduced depression symptoms greater than did sham. The two forms of active TMS treatment did not differ significantly.