Synchronized transcranial magnetic stimulation is especially effective for those with more severe depression

New research provides more evidence that a type of non-invasive brain stimulation called Synchronized Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation can help treat symptoms of depression. The study appears in the journal Depression & Anxiety.

“My broader interest is in finding new, non-invasive, safe methods to help my patients suffering from psychiatric diseases. Significant number of patients remain ill despite our current treatments, and we need to do better,” said study author Noah S. Philip of Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

“To this end, we have been interested in developing technologies that are informed by neuroscience and are easier to use than current technologies. This particular project was prompted by our prior research — this technology (synchronized TMS; abbreviated sTMS) works by delivering low amounts of magnetic energy at an individual’s brain frequency.”

“We previously published a study that demonstrated it worked in individuals with treatment-resistant major depression (Leuchter et al., Brain Stimulation 2015), and the current study sought to identify clinical predictors of response to sTMS.”

The double-blind sham-controlled study of 120 individuals found that those with greater severity of depression and higher anxiety tended to have superior responses to the treatment. The participants received 30 sham-controlled sTMS session over the course of 6–8 weeks.

“sTMS worked the best in individuals with the most severe depressive and anxiety symptoms. In my experience, these are often the patients who are the hardest to treat. We also found that patients who were more treatment naive had a larger placebo response in our study. We may be able to use EEG to predict who will respond to sTMS,” Philip told PsyPost.

“This work also supports the use of non-invasive brain stimulation more broadly in disorders other than ‘simple’ depression — and provides hope for real-world patients for whom comorbidity (depression & anxiety) is the rule.”

The study, “Predictors of response to synchronized transcranial magnetic stimulation for major depressive disorder“, was authored by Noah S. Philip, Andrew F. Leuchter, Ian A. Cook, Joe Massaro, John W. Goethe, and Linda L. Carpenter.