Transcranial direct current stimulation in severe, drug-resistant major depression

J Affect Disord. 2009 Nov;118(1-3):215-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2009.02.015. Epub 2009 Mar 16.


Background: Though antidepressant drugs are the treatment of choice for severe major depression, a number of patients do not improve with pharmacologic treatment. This study aimed to assess the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in patients with severe, drug-resistant depression.

Methods: Fourteen hospitalized patients aged 37-68, with severe major depressive disorder according to DSM-IV.TR criteria, drug resistant, with high risk of suicide and referred for ECT were included. Mood was evaluated using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) and the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS). We also administered cognitive tasks to evaluate the possible cognitive effects on memory and attention. tDCS was delivered over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPC) (2 mA, 20 min, anode left, cathode right) twice a day.

Results: After five days of treatment although cognitive performances remained unchanged, the BDI and HDRS scores improved more than 30% (BDI p=0.001; HDRS p=0.017). The mood improvement persisted and even increased at four (T2) weeks after treatment ended. The feeling of sadness and mood as evaluated by VAS improved after tDCS (Sadness p=0.007; Mood p=0.036).

Conclusions: We conclude that frontal tDCS is a simple, promising technique that can be considered in clinical practice as adjuvant treatment for hospitalized patients with severe, drug-resistant major depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Disease
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Drug Resistance
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Personality Inventory
  • Retreatment
  • Suicide / prevention & control
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents