A Meta-Analysis of the Effectiveness of Different Cortical Targets Used in Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) for the Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Psychiatr Q. 2018 Sep;89(3):645-665. doi: 10.1007/s11126-018-9566-7.


Randomised and sham-controlled trials (RCTs) of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have yielded conflicting results, which may be due to the variability in rTMS parameters used. We performed an updated systematic review and meta-analysis on the effectiveness of rTMS for the treatment of OCD and aimed to determine whether certain rTMS parameters, such as cortical target, may be associated with higher treatment effectiveness. After conducting a systematic literature review for RCTs on rTMS for OCD through to 1 December 2016 using MEDLINE, PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO, Google, and Google Scholar, we performed a random-effects meta-analysis with the outcome measure as pre-post changes in Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS) scores. To determine whether rTMS parameters may have influenced treatment effectiveness, studies were further analysed according to cortical target, stimulation frequency, and length of follow-up. Data were obtained from 18 RCTs on rTMS in the treatment of OCD. Overall, rTMS yielded a modest effect in reducing Y-BOCS scores with Hedge's g of 0.79 (95% CI = 0.43-1.15, p < 0.001). Stimulation of the supplementary motor area yielded the greatest reductions in Y-BOCS scores relative to other cortical targets. Subgroup analyses suggested that low frequency rTMS was more effective than high frequency rTMS. The effectiveness of rTMS was also greater at 12 weeks follow-up than at four weeks follow-up. Our meta-analysis implies that low frequency rTMS applied over the supplementary motor area may offer the greatest effectiveness in the treatment of OCD. The therapeutic effects of rTMS also appear to persist post-treatment and may offer beneficial long-term effectiveness. With our findings, it is suggested that future large-scale studies focus on the supplementary motor area and include follow-up periods of 12 weeks or more.

Keywords: Cortical target; Long-term effectiveness; OCD; Obsessive-compulsive disorder; Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation; Stimulation frequency; Treatment; rTMS; rTMS parameters.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / therapy*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*