Theta-burst stimulation: a new form of TMS treatment for depression?

Depress Anxiety. 2015 Mar;32(3):182-92. doi: 10.1002/da.22335. Epub 2014 Nov 28.


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a common debilitating condition where only one third of patients achieve remission after the first antidepressant treatment. Inadequate efficacy and adverse effects of current treatment strategies call for more effective and tolerable treatment options. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive approach to manipulate brain activity and alter cortical excitability. There has been more than 15 years of research on the use of repetitive form of TMS (rTMS) for the treatment of patients with depression, which has shown it to be an effective antidepressant treatment. Even though rTMS treatment has shown efficacy in treating depression, there is a high degree of interindividual variability in response. A newer form of rTMS protocol, known as theta-burst stimulation (TBS), has been shown to produce similar if not greater effects on brain activity than standard rTMS. TBS protocols have a major advantage over standard rTMS approaches in their reduced administration duration. Conventional rTMS procedures last between 20 and 45 min, as compared to TBS paradigms that require 1 to 3 min of stimulation. Recently, a small number of studies have suggested that TBS has similar or better efficacy in treating depression compared to rTMS. Optimization, identification of response predictors, and clarification of neurobiological mechanisms of TBS is required if it is to be further developed as a less time intensive, safe, and effective treatment for MDD.

Keywords: brain stimulation; depression; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; electroencephalography; theta-burst stimulation; transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Depression / therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Neurobiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents