Transcranial magnetic stimulation in anxiety and trauma-related disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Brain Behav. 2019 Jun;9(6):e01284. doi: 10.1002/brb3.1284. Epub 2019 May 7.


Background: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been evaluated as an effective treatment option for patients with major depressive disorder. However, there are limited studies that have evaluated the efficacy of TMS for other neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety and trauma-related disorders. We reviewed the literature that has evaluated TMS as a treatment for anxiety and trauma-related disorders.

Methods: We searched for articles published up to December 2017 in Embase, Medline, and ISI Web of Science databases, following the Preferred Items for Reporting of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement. Articles (n = 520) evaluating TMS in anxiety and trauma-related disorders were screened and a small subset of these that met the eligibility criteria (n = 17) were included in the systematic review, of which nine evaluated TMS in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), four in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), two in specific phobia (SP), and two in panic disorder (PD). The meta-analysis was performed with PTSD and GAD since PD and SP had an insufficient number of studies and sample sizes.

Results: Among anxiety and trauma-related disorders, TMS has been most widely studied as a treatment for PTSD. TMS demonstrated large overall treatment effect for both PTSD (ES = -0.88, 95% CI: -1.42, -0.34) and GAD (ES = -2.06, 95% CI: -2.64, -1.48), including applying high frequency over the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Since few studies have evaluated TMS for SP and PD, few conclusions can be drawn.

Conclusions: Our meta-analysis suggests that TMS may be an effective treatment for GAD and PTSD.

Keywords: anxiety disorders; meta-analysis; posttraumatic stress disorder; systematic review; theta burst; transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome