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A randomized, double-blind clinical trial on the efficacy of cortical direct current stimulation for the treatment of major depression

  • Paulo S. Boggio (a1), Sergio P. Rigonatti (a2), Rafael B. Ribeiro (a2), Martin L. Myczkowski (a2), Michael A. Nitsche (a3), Alvaro Pascual-Leone (a4) and Felipe Fregni (a4)...

Preliminary findings suggest that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can have antidepressant effects. We sought to test this further in a parallel-group, double-blind clinical trial with 40 patients with major depression, medication-free randomized into three groups of treatment: anodal tDCS of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (active group – ‘DLPFC’); anodal tDCS of the occipital cortex (active control group – ‘occipital’) and sham tDCS (placebo control group – ‘sham’). tDCS was applied for 10 sessions during a 2-wk period. Mood was evaluated by a blinded rater using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). The treatment was well tolerated with minimal side-effects that were distributed equally across all treatment groups. We found significantly larger reductions in depression scores after DLPFC tDCS [HDRS reduction of 40.4% (±25.8%)] compared to occipital [HDRS reduction of 21.3% (±12.9%)] and sham tDCS [HDRS reduction of 10.4% (±36.6%)]. The beneficial effects of tDCS in the DLPFC group persisted for 1 month after the end of treatment. Our findings support further investigation on the effects of this novel potential therapeutic approach – tDCS – for the treatment of major depression.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: F. Fregni, M.D., Ph.D. or P. S. Boggio, M.Sc., Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation, Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Ave – KS 452, Boston, MA 02215, USA. Tel.: 617-667-5272Fax: 617 975-5322E-mail:
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The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
  • ISSN: 1461-1457
  • EISSN: 1469-5111
  • URL: /core/journals/the-international-journal-of-neuropsychopharmacology
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