Purpose: Effective treatment options for negative symptoms and cognitive impairment in patients with schizophrenia are still to be developed. The present study was to examine potential benefits of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to improve negative symptoms and cognition in this patient population. Methods: The study was a 4-week, randomized, double-blind sham-controlled trial. Patients with schizophrenia were treated with adjunctive 20-Hz rTMS for 4 weeks or sham condition to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Negative symptoms were measured using the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS) and the Positive and Negative symptom scale (PANSS) negative subscale at baseline and week 4. Cognitive function was measured using the MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery (MCCB) at the same two time points. In addition, possible moderators for rTMS treatment efficacy were explored. Results: Sixty patients (33 in the treatment group, 27 in the sham group) completed the study. There was a significant decrease in negative symptoms after 4-week rTMS treatment as measured by the SANS total score and the PANSS negative symptom subscale score. However, there was no significant improvement in cognition with rTMS treatment. Stepwise multiple linear regression analysis suggested that the baseline severity of positive symptoms may predict poorer improvement in negative symptoms at week 4. Conclusion: Twenty-Hz rTMS stimulation over left DLPFC as an adjunctive treatment might be beneficial in improving negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Future studies with a longer treatment duration and a larger sample size are needed. Clinical trial ID: NCT01940939.
Keywords: MCCB; cognitive impairment; negative symptoms; repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, rTMS; schizophrenia.