Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation: a putative add-on treatment for major depression in elderly patients

Psychiatry Res. 2004 Apr 30;126(2):123-33. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2003.10.006.


Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a recent putative treatment for affective disorders. Several studies have demonstrated antidepressant effects of rTMS in younger patients; we aimed to assess its effect in older outpatients with treatment-resistant major depression. Twenty-four outpatients (mean age=62 years, S.D.=12) with major depression were randomized for sham or real stimulation and received 10 daily rTMS sessions (20 Hz, 2-s trains, 28-s intertrain intervals, 100% of motor threshold) in addition to the antidepressant medication. For sham stimulation, the coil was tilted 90 degrees. Depression severity was assessed using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, the Beck Depression Inventory, items from the NIMH self-rated symptom scale, and a visual analog depression scale. Mini-Mental Status Examination performance, memory, and executive and attentional functions were measured to control for cognitive side effects. Depression ratings revealed significant antidepressant effects within 2 weeks in both sham and real stimulation groups; however, there were no between-group differences. Treatment with rTMS was safe; adverse events were rare and not more prevalent in either group, and cognitive assessment did not show any deterioration. We were unable to demonstrate any additional antidepressant effects of real stimulation in elderly patients with treatment-resistant major depression. Therapeutic effects of rTMS in this clinically challenging patient group remain to be demonstrated.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Periodicity*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Skull
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / instrumentation*


  • Antidepressive Agents