What is the role of brain stimulation therapies in the treatment of depression?

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2013 Jul;15(7):368. doi: 10.1007/s11920-013-0368-1.


Brain stimulation therapies have demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of depression and treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Non-invasive brain stimulation in the treatment of depression has grown substantially due to their favorable adverse effect profiles. The role of transcranial direct current stimulation in TRD is unclear, but emerging data suggests that it may be an effective add-on treatment. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation has demonstrated efficacy in TRD that is supported by several multicenter randomized controlled trials. Though, vagus nerve stimulation has been found to be effective in some studies, sham controlled studies were equivocal. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a well-established brain stimulation treatment for severe depression and TRD, yet stigma and cognitive adverse effects limit its wider use. Magnetic seizure therapy has a more favorable cognitive adverse effect profile; however, equivalent efficacy to ECT needs to be established. Deep brain stimulation may play a role in severe TRD and controlled trials are now underway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Deep Brain Stimulation / methods
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods
  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation / methods