Antidepressant Effects of Prolonged Intermittent Theta-Burst Stimulation Monotherapy at the Bilateral Dorsomedial Prefrontal Cortex for Medication and Standard Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation-Resistant Major Depression: A Three Arm, Randomized, Double Blind, Sham-Controlled Pilot Study

SOURCE: European Archives of Psychiatry & Clinical Neuroscience. 273(7):1433-1442, 2023 Oct.

AUTHORS: Cheng CM; Li CT; Jeng JS; Chang WH; Lin WC; Chen MH; Bai YM; Tsai SJ; Su TP

ABSTRACT: The dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) plays a pivotal role in depression and anxiosomatic symptom modulation. However, DMPFC stimulation using a double-cone coil has demonstrated inconsistent results for antidepressant efficacy. No study thus far has investigated the antidepressant and anti-anxiosomatic effects of prolonged intermittent theta-burst stimulation (piTBS) bilaterally over DMPFC. Furthermore, head-to-head comparisons of antidepressant effects between standard iTBS and piTBS warrant investigation. This double-blind, randomized, sham-controlled trial recruited 34 patients with highly treatment-resistant depression (TRD) unresponsive to antidepressants and standard repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)/piTBS. These patients were randomly assigned to one of three monotherapy groups (standard iTBS, piTBS, or sham), with treatment administered bilaterally over the DMPFC twice per day for 3 weeks. The primary outcome was the overall changes of 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS-17) over 3-weeks intervention. The changes in Depression and Somatic Symptoms Scale (DSSS) as the secondary outcome and the anxiosomatic cluster symptoms as rated by HDRS-17 as the post-hoc outcome were measured. Multivariable generalized estimating equation analysis was performed. Although no differences in overall HDRS-17 changes between three groups were found, the antidepressant efficacy based on DSSS was higher in piTBS than in iTBS and sham at week 3 (group effect,p = 0.003, post-hoc: piTBS > iTBS, p = 0.002; piTBS > sham, p = 0.038). In post-hoc analyses, piTBS had more alleviation in anxiosomatic symptoms than iTBS (group effect, p = 0.002; post-hoc, p = 0.001). This first randomized sham-controlled study directly compared piTBS and iTBS targeting the DMPFC using a figure-of-8 coil and found piTBS may fail to demonstrate a significant antidepressant effect on overall depressive symptoms, but piTBS seems superior in alleviating anxiosomatic symptoms, even in depressed patients with high treatment resistance.