Robotic Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in the Treatment of Depression: A Pilot Study

SOURCE: Scientific Reports. 13(1):14074, 2023 08 28

AUTHORS: Shin H; Jeong H; Ryu W; Lee G; Lee J; Kim D; Song IU; Chung YA; Lee S

ABSTRACT: There has been an increasing demand for robotic coil positioning during repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) treatment. Accurate coil positioning is crucial because rTMS generally targets specific brain regions for both research and clinical application with other reasons such as safety, consistency and reliability and individual variability. Some previous studies have employed industrial robots or co-robots and showed they can more precisely stimulate the target cortical regions than traditional manual methods. In this study, we not only developed a custom-TMS robot for better TMS coil placement but also analyzed the therapeutic effects on depression. Treatment effects were evaluated by measuring regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) using single-photon emission computed tomography and depression severity before and after rTMS for the two positioning methods. The rTMS preparation time with our robotic coil placement was reduced by 53% compared with that of the manual method. The position and orientation errors were also significantly reduced from 11.17 mm and 4.06 degree to 0.94 mm and 0.11 degree, respectively, confirming the superiority of robotic positioning. The results from clinical and neuroimaging assessments indicated comparable improvements in depression severity and rCBF in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex between the robotic and manual rTMS groups. A questionnaire was used to determine the patients’ feelings about the robotic system, including the safety and preparation time. A high safety score indicated good acceptability of robotic rTMS at the clinical site.