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Effect of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD) on cognitive control



Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is commonly accompanied by cognitive control dysfunction that may persist after remission of clinical symptoms with antidepressant medication treatment. Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is an effective treatment alternative for medication-resistant MDD. In this study, we investigated whether rTMS treatment had a beneficial effect not only on depressive symptoms, but on also cognitive control dysfunction.


77 subjects with MDD received a 30-session treatment course of 10 Hz rTMS administered at the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Treatment efficacy was assessed using the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology Self-Rated (IDS-SR) before and after treatment, with clinical response defined as 50% or greater decrease in the IDS-SR score at treatment 30. Cognitive control function was assessed before and after treatment using the Stroop word-color interference task. We examined changes in Stroop accuracy and reaction time for congruent and incongruent trials, as well as in relation to changes in depressive symptoms.


Performance accuracy improved particularly for the rTMS responders in the incongruent condition, with older subjects benefitting most from the rTMS treatment. Improvement in reaction times was positively associated with clinical improvement, especially in the incongruent condition.


We used a single cognitive task in a naturalistic setting without control for individual rTMS treatment parameters or concomitant medication.


Overall, these results indicate that rTMS treatment for MDD has beneficial effects on psychomotor speed and cognitive control. Future studies should extend these findings to larger patient populations and other cognitive domains.

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