Accelerated Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (aTMS) to Treat Depression with Treatment Switching: Study Protocol of a Pilot, Randomized, Delayed-Start Trial


Pilot and Feasibility Studies. 7 (1) (no pagination), 2021. Article Number: 104. Date of Publication: December 2021.

Tan X.W.; Abdin E.; Tor P.C.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a technique for stimulating brain activity using a transient magnetic field to induce an electrical current in the brain producing depolarization of focal groups of brain cells. TMS is a protocol approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in routine clinical practice as a treatment for depression. A major limitation of rTMS is the large amount of time taken for a standard protocol (38 min a day for 20-30 working days). The optimal type and duration of TMS are still uncertain, as is the optimal strategy for continuing or changing the type of rTMS if there is a poor initial response.

The trial aims to assess whether a 1-week compressed course of left dorsolateral prefrontal (L DLPFC) 5 Hz accelerated rTMS (aTMS) treatment is as effective as an established 4-week course of non-accelerated rTMS and if additional 5 Hz L DLPFC aTMS treatments will be efficacious in non-responders as compared to 1 Hz right DLPFC aTMS treatment.

A randomized, single-blind, delayed-start trial was planned to commence in Jan 2020. A total of 60 patients will be enrolled from the Institute of Mental Health Singapore within a 2-year period and randomized into the early or delayed-start phase of the trial. The primary outcome of the trial is the improvement of Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating scale at the end of the active treatment phase.

If this study protocol proves to be effective, the findings of this trial will be updated to the College of Psychiatrists, Academy of Medicine Singapore, as well as published in a peer-reviewed journal to enhance local and international TMS treatment guidelines.