Transcranial cortical stimulation in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorders: efficacy studies

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2015 May;17(5):36. doi: 10.1007/s11920-015-0571-3.


Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) are non-invasive brain stimulation methods that became widely used as therapeutic tools during the past two decades especially in cases of depression and schizophrenia. Low frequency rTMS and cathodal effect of tDCS inhibits cortical functioning while high frequency and anodal effect of tDCS have the opposite effect. Prolonged and repetitive application of either methods leads to changes in excitability of the human cortex that outlast the period of stimulation. Both rTMS and tDCS induce functional changes in the brain-modulating neural activity at cortical level. This paper reviews rTMS and tDCS effects in clinical trials for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Low frequency rTMS, particularly targeting the supplementary motor area and the orbital frontal cortex, seems to be the most promising in terms of therapeutic efficacy while older studies targeting the prefrontal dorsal cortex were not as successful. tDCS clearly needs to be investigated in large scale and sufficiently powered randomized control studies. From a general point of view, these non-invasive techniques hold promise as novel therapeutic tools for OCD patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Electrodes
  • Frontal Lobe*
  • Humans
  • Motor Cortex
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / therapy*
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation* / methods
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation* / methods
  • Treatment Outcome