Efficacy and Safety of Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Prospective Multicenter Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial

Am J Psychiatry. 2019 Nov 1;176(11):931-938. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2019.18101180. Epub 2019 May 21.


Objective: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic and disabling condition that often responds unsatisfactorily to pharmacological and psychological treatments. Converging evidence suggests a dysfunction of the cortical-striatal-thalamic-cortical circuit in OCD, and a previous feasibility study indicated beneficial effects of deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) targeting the medial prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex. The authors examined the therapeutic effect of dTMS in a multicenter double-blind sham-controlled study.

Methods: At 11 centers, 99 OCD patients were randomly allocated to treatment with either high-frequency (20 Hz) or sham dTMS and received daily treatments following individualized symptom provocation, for 6 weeks. Clinical response to treatment was determined using the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (YBOCS), and the primary efficacy endpoint was the change in score from baseline to posttreatment assessment. Additional measures were response rates (defined as a reduction of ≥30% in YBOCS score) at the posttreatment assessment and after another month of follow-up.

Results: Eighty-nine percent of the active treatment group and 96% of the sham treatment group completed the study. The reduction in YBOCS score among patients who received active dTMS treatment was significantly greater than among patients who received sham treatment (reductions of 6.0 points and 3.3 points, respectively), with response rates of 38.1% and 11.1%, respectively. At the 1-month follow-up, the response rates were 45.2% in the active treatment group and 17.8% in the sham treatment group. Significant differences between the groups were maintained at follow-up.

Conclusions: High-frequency dTMS over the medial prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex significantly improved OCD symptoms and may be considered as a potential intervention for patients who do not respond adequately to pharmacological and psychological interventions.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02229903.

Keywords: Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation; Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; TMS.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / therapy*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / adverse effects
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02229903