To provide an overview of the progress and prospects of transcranial magnetic stimulation as a psychiatric therapy for depression.
Published and unpublished studies of the usefulness of transcranial magnetic stimulation as a therapy for depression were assessed, and characterised in terms of a consistent measure of dosage. Additional information was obtained through correspondence, personal meetings and visits to facilities.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation, a means for inducing small regional currents in the brain, has been used in clinical neurology for some time, and can be used on conscious subjects with minimal side-effects. Early researchers noticed transient mood effects on people receiving this treatment, which prompted several inconclusive investigations of its effects on depressed patients. More recently, knowledge of functional abnormalities associated with depression has led to trials using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation to stimulate underactive left prefrontal regions, an approach which has produced short-term benefits for some subjects. The higher dosage delivered by high-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation appears to produce greater benefits; scope exists for more conclusive studies based on extended treatment periods.
Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation is a promising technology. The reviewed evidence indicates that it may be useful in the treatment of depression, and perhaps other disorders which are associated with regional hypometabolism. Should repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation prove an effective, non-invasive, drug-free treatment for depression, a range of disorders could be similarly treatable.
Aust N Z J Psychiatry 1997 Apr;31(2):264-72
Kirkcaldie MT, Pridmore SA, Pascual-Leone A.
Department of Anatomy and Physiology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia.