Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Resistant Depression

By Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Staff

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS), a therapy in which electromagnetic fields are pulsed through a coil placed on the scalp, can produce antidepressant effects in individuals who are resistant to or unable to tolerate standard antidepressant drugs. Now, a new study published in the journal Brain Stimulation suggests that a new means of delivering rTMS, a “two-coil array,” can be safely used and may help to stimulate deeper areas of the brain than the current single-coil designs.

The most commonly used coils for rTMS are figure-eight or butterfly-shaped coils that produce focused but shallow penetration of the brain. However, this shallow therapeutic current may not reach into some of the structures in the frontal brain region that are thought to be involved in major depression. Larger coils that could send the current deeper into the brain can have unwanted side effects on motor skills and may not focus the current as precisely.

To determine whether two small coils might produce combined currents that could stimulate the deeper frontal brain, researchers led by Linda L. Carpenter, M.D., a 2005 Independent Investigator and 1997 Young Investigator at Butler Hospital, conducted a randomized trial to determine whether the two-coil design would be safe and effective. The research team included Paul E. Holtzheimer, M.D., a 2016 Independent Investigator and 2007 Young Investigator at the…

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