Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a technology that allows for non-invasive modulation of the excitability and function of discrete brain cortical areas. TMS uses alternating magnetic fields to induce electric currents in cortical tissue. In psychiatry, TMS has been studied primarily as a potential treatment for major depression. Most studies indicate that slow-frequency repetitive TMS (rTMS) and higher frequency rTMS have antidepressant properties. A meta-analysis of controlled studies indicates that this effect is fairly robust from a statistical viewpoint. However, effect sizes are heterogeneous, and few studies have shown that rTMS results in substantial rates of clinical response or remission, and the durability of antidepressant effects is largely unknown. We review in detail rTMS studies in the treatment of depression, as well as summarize treatment studies of mania, obsessive–compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia. We also review the application of TMS in the study of the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders and summarize studies of the safety of TMS in human subjects.
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