Equivalent beneficial effects of unilateral and bilateral prefrontal cortex transcranial magnetic stimulation in a large randomized trial in treatment-resistant major depression

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 Oct;16(9):1975-84. doi: 10.1017/S1461145713000369. Epub 2013 May 13.


Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment (rTMS) is an effective treatment for depression but the optimal methods of administration have yet to be determined. Recent studies have produced conflicting results as to whether unilateral rTMS is more or less effective than sequentially applied bilateral rTMS. To address this we conducted a trial comparing sequential bilateral rTMS to right-sided unilateral rTMS using a priming protocol. Patients with treatment-resistant depression (n = 179) were enrolled in a two-arm randomized controlled trial across a 4-wk time period. The primary outcome assessment was the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. Overall, there was a substantial response rate of >50% (and a 40% remission rate); however, there were no significant differences in clinical response between the two treatment groups. rTMS was well tolerated with a very low discontinuation rate. There was no relationship between response in the current trial and previous response, or non-response, to electroconvulsive therapy. We found no significant differences in clinical response between sequential bilateral rTMS and right-sided unilateral rTMS applied with a priming protocol. The results of this study do not support superior efficacy of bilateral rTMS and instead suggest that other approaches should be explored to increase treatment efficacy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder, Treatment-Resistant / therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Time Factors
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*
  • Treatment Outcome