Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation for Auditory Hallucinations in Schizophrenia: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis


Journal of Psychiatric Research. 143:163-175, 2021 Nov.

Guttesen LL; Albert N; Nordentoft M; Hjorthoj C

Through imaging studies, a significant increase in cerebral activity has been detected in fronto-temporal areas in patients experiencing auditory verbal hallucinations. Therefore, non-invasive neuromodulation, in particular transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), has been considered as a therapeutic intervention for medication-resistant auditory verbal hallucinations in schizophrenia. We aimed to synthesize results from randomized trials on either rTMS or tDCS versus placebo in patients with schizophrenia by including five recently published trials in the field. A systematic review and meta-analysis of relevant literature was conducted. Studies were included on the basis of pre-defined selection criteria. The quality of the studies was assessed by the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool for Randomized Controlled Trials. RevMan 5.3 was used to conduct the statistical analysis. Including 465 and 960 patients, respectively, 12 tDCS and 27 rTMS studies were included. Regarding treatment of medication refractory auditory verbal hallucinations, no significant effect of tDCS (-0.23 [-0.49, 0.02], p = 0.08) or rTMS (-0.19 [-0.50, 0,11], p = 0.21) was found compared to sham in this meta-analysis. The current study found that it cannot be concluded that rTMS and tDCS are efficacious in treating medication-resistant auditory verbal hallucinations. Larger randomized controlled tDCS trials of a higher quality should be conducted in the future to establish substantial evidence of tDCS. The interventions appear safe and may have beneficial effects on other outcomes.