A double blind randomized trial of unilateral left and bilateral prefrontal cortex transcranial magnetic stimulation in treatment resistant major depression

J Affect Disord. 2012 Jul;139(2):193-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2012.02.017. Epub 2012 Mar 5.


Objective: A substantive body of research has demonstrated the efficacy of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment (rTMS) in patients with depression. However, the parameters needed to optimize therapeutic efficacy remain unclear. The aim of this study was to investigate whether there is an advantage in efficacy of sequential bilateral rTMS compared to standard high-frequency left sided rTMS.

Method: Sixty seven patients with treatment resistant depression were included in a randomised double-blind sham controlled trial of sequential bilateral rTMS compared to standard high-frequency left sided rTMS and sham rTMS over a three-week period. The study also included a further three week comparison of the two active treatment conditions. The primary outcome variable was scores on the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD).

Results: In the three-week double-blind phase of the trial there was a greater antidepressant response to unilateral left sided rTMS compared with sham or bilateral rTMS. Across the full six weeks of active rTMS, there was also a consistent pattern of improved response in unilateral left compared to bilateral treatment. Response rates were low in both active groups.

Conclusions: This study does not support the hypothesis that sequential bilateral rTMS is more effective than unilateral high-frequency left-sided rTMS.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*
  • Treatment Outcome