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Interhemispheric asymmetry of motor cortical excitability in major depression as measured by transcranial magnetic stimulation

  • Fumiko Maeda (a1), Julian P. Keenan (a2) and Alvaro Pascual-Leone (a3)

Neuroimaging studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) indicate interhemispheric differences in prefrontal cortical activity (right greater than left).


To investigate whether there are any interhemispheric differences of motor cortical excitability in MDD.


Eight patients with treatment-refractory MDD off medication were assessed for the severity of their depression, and transcranial magnetic stimulation studies (bilateral motor threshold and paired-pulse studies) were conducted. Eight normal controls were also studied.


MDD patients showed significant interhemispheric differences in motor threshold and paired-pulse curves, both of which showed lower excitability on the left hemisphere. Such differences were absent in controls.


Our findings may aid the further understanding of the neurophysiology underlying MDD.

Corresponding author
Dr A. Pascual-Leone, 330 Brookline Ave. KS452, Boston, MA 02215, USA. Tel: 617-667-0203; Fax: 617-975-5322; e-mail:
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Declaration of interest

This study was supported in part by the Cellular Science Research Foundation, Yoshida Science Foundation, Stanley Vada Foundation, National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression, and the National Institute of Mental Health (ROIMH57980).

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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
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Interhemispheric asymmetry of motor cortical excitability in major depression as measured by transcranial magnetic stimulation

  • Fumiko Maeda (a1), Julian P. Keenan (a2) and Alvaro Pascual-Leone (a3)
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