George, M.S. (2010) Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for the Treatment of Depression. Expert Rev. Neurother. 10(11), 1761–1772
Repeated daily left prefrontal transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was first proposed as a potential treatment for depression in 1993. Multiple studies from researchers around the world since then have repeatedly demonstrated that TMS has antidepressant effects greater than sham treatment, and that these effects are clinically meaningful. A large industry-sponsored trial, published in 2007, resulted in US FDA approval in October 2008. Most recently, a large NIH-sponsored trial, with a more rigorous sham technique, found that a course of treatment (3–5 weeks) was statistically and clinically significant in reducing depression. However, consistently showing statistically and clinically significant antidepressant effects, and gaining regulatory approval, is merely the beginning for this new treatment. As with any new treatment involving a radically different approach, there are many unanswered questions about TMS, and the field is still rapidly evolving. These unanswered questions include the appropriate scalp location, understanding the mechanisms of action, refining the ‘dose’ (frequency, train, number of stimuli/day and pattern of delivery), understanding whether and how TMS can be combined with medications or talking/exposure therapy, or both, and how to deliver maintenance TMS. This article summarizes the available clinical information, and discusses key areas where more research is needed. TMS reflects a paradigm shift in treating depression. It is a safe, relatively noninvasive, focal brain stimulation treatment that does not involve seizures or implanted wires, and does not have drug–drug interactions or systemic side effects.