Background: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) enables non-surgical activation of specific brain areas. TMS over the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is emerging as a significant tool that can augment or replace non/partially effective antidepressant medications. Deep TMS (DTMS) utilizes newly developed coils that enable effective stimulation of deeper cortical layers involved in the pathophysiology of depression.
Objectives: We aimed to assess the H1-DTMS coil as an add-on to antidepressants in treating patients with major depression. We also intended to evaluate whether the antidepressant outcome of DTMS treatment is affected by a cognitive-emotional procedure performed during stimulation.
Methods: 57 patients were enrolled in the study that included 4 weeks of daily 20 Hz stimulation sessions and additional 4 weekly sessions as a short maintenance phase. Two subgroups of patients received either positive or negative cognitive-emotional reactivation along with the stimulation sessions.
Results: 21 of 46 patients (46%) who received at least 10 stimulation sessions achieved response (improvement of ≥ 50% in the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS)) and 13 of them (28%) achieved remission (HDRS-24 ≤ 10) by the end of the daily treatment phase. Improvements were smaller in the negatively reactivated group and Beck Depression Inventory scores were not significantly improved in this group.
Conclusions: DTMS over the PFC proved to be safe and effective in augmenting antidepressant medications. Negative cognitive-emotional reactivation can disrupt the therapeutic effect of DTMS. A large sham controlled study is required to further establish the effectiveness of DTMS as an augmentation treatment and the role of cognitive reactivation during stimulation.
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