Magnetic seizure therapy is efficacious and well tolerated for treatment-resistant bipolar depression: An open-label clinical trial

Victor M. Tang, Daniel M. Blumberger, Julia Dimitrova, Alanah Throop, Shawn M. McClintock, Daphne Voineskos, Jonathan Downar, Yuliya Knyahnytska, Benoit H. Mulsant, Paul B. Fitzgerald, Zafiris J. Daskalakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Treatment-resistant bipolar depression can be treated effectively using electroconvulsive therapy, but its use is limited because of stigma and cognitive adverse effects. Magnetic seizure therapy is a new convulsive therapy with promising early evidence of antidepressant effects and minimal cognitive adverse effects. However, there are no clinical trials of the efficacy and safety of magnetic seizure therapy for treatment-resistant bipolar depression. Methods: Participants with treatment-resistant bipolar depression were treated with magnetic seizure therapy for up to 24 sessions or until remission. Magnetic seizure therapy was applied over the prefrontal cortex at high (100 Hz; n = 8), medium (50 or 60 Hz; n = 9) or low (25 Hz; n = 3) frequency, or over the vertex at high frequency (n = 6). The primary outcome measure was the 24-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. Participants completed a comprehensive battery of neurocognitive tests. Results: Twenty-six participants completed a minimally adequate trial of magnetic seizure therapy (i.e., ≥ 8 sessions), and 20 completed full treatment per protocol. Participants showed a significant reduction in scores on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. Adequate trial completers had a remission rate of 23.1% and a response rate of 38.5%. Per-protocol completers had a remission rate of 30% and a response rate of 50%. Almost all cognitive measures remained stable, except for significantly worsened recall consistency on the autobiographical memory inventory. Limitations: The open-label study design and modest sample size did not allow for comparisons between stimulation parameters. Conclusion: In treatment-resistant bipolar depression, magnetic seizure therapy produced significant improvements in depression symptoms with minimal effects on cognitive performance. These promising results warrant further investigation with larger randomized clinical trials comparing magnetic seizure therapy to electroconvulsive therapy. Clinical trial registration: NCT01596608;

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-321
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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