Influence of prefrontal target region on the efficacy of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in patients with medication-resistant depression: a [(18)F]-fluorodeoxyglucose PET and MRI study

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2010 Feb;13(1):45-59. doi: 10.1017/S146114570900008X. Epub 2009 Mar 9.


It is currently unknown whether the antidepressant effect of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) depends on specific characteristics of the stimulated frontal area, such as metabolic changes. We investigated the effect of high-frequency rTMS, administered over the most hypometabolic prefrontal area in depressed patients in a two-site, double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled add-on study. Forty-eight patients with medication-resistant major depression underwent magnetic resonance imaging and [(18)F]-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (PET) in order to determine a target area for rTMS. After randomization to PET-guided (n = 16), standard (n = 18), or sham rTMS (n = 14) conditions, the patients received 10 sessions of 10-Hz rTMS (1600 pulses/session) at 90% motor threshold. Change from baseline in Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) scores did not differ between PET-guided, standard and sham groups at 2-wk end-point. Exploratory comparison of left PET-guided (n = 9), right PET-guided, standard, and sham rTMS revealed significant effects. The highest improvement in MADRS scores was observed with left PET-guided (60 + or - 31%), significantly superior to sham (30 + or - 37%, p = 0.01) and right-guided (31 + or - 33%, p = 0.02) stimulation. Comparison between left PET-guided and standard rTMS (49 + or - 28%) was not significant (p = 0.12). Comparison between stimulation over dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (BA 9-46), stimulation of other areas, and sham rTMS was statistically significant. Stimulation over BA 9-46 region (n = 15) was superior to sham rTMS (p = 0.02). The results do not support the general hypothesis of increased antidepressant effects of high-frequency rTMS with prefrontal hypometabolism-related PET guidance. Nonetheless, whether metabolism and anatomy characteristics of left frontal area underneath the coil might account for an increase or speeding up of rTMS effects needs further investigation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain Mapping
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnostic imaging
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / metabolism*
  • Drug Resistance
  • Female
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18 / metabolism*
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Fluorodeoxyglucose F18