Background: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is an approved therapeutic treatment of major depressive disorder and has increasing clinical use throughout the world. However, it remains unclear whether an rTMS course for depression may also produce cognitive enhancement. In a recent meta-analysis of sham-controlled randomized controlled studies (RCTs) conducted in patients with neuropsychiatric conditions, no evidence was found for generalized cognitive enhancing effects across cognitive domains with active compared to sham rTMS. Notwithstanding, there remains the possibility of cognitive effects following an rTMS course that are more highly specific, for example, in specific clinical conditions, or at the individual task level. This study aimed to determine whether a therapeutic rTMS course in patients with depression is associated with cognitive enhancing effects at the task level. Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis of outcomes on individual neuropsychological tasks from sham-controlled RCTs where an rTMS course was administered to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in patients with depression. Results: Eighteen studies met the inclusion criteria. Active rTMS treatment showed no specific enhancing effects on the majority of cognitive tasks. Modest effect size improvements with active compared to sham rTMS treatment were found for performance on the Trail Making Test Parts A (g = 0.28, 95% CI = 0.06–0.50) and B (g = 0.26, 95% CI = 0.06–0.47). Conclusion: A therapeutic rTMS course administered to the prefrontal cortex for depression may produce modest cognitive enhancing effects specific to psychomotor speed, visual scanning, and set-shifting ability.
- repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation
- Trail Making Test
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health