Advances in brain stimulation for depression

Anna Wani, Kenneth Trevino, Paige Marnell, Mustafa M. Husain

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Major depressive disorder is a common and debilitating psychiatric disorder that negatively impacts a large portion of the population. Although a range of antidepressant treatments have been developed, many patients are unable to obtain an adequate therapeutic response despite completing several antidepressant medication trials. As a result, neurostimulation treatment modalities have been developed as potential alternatives. This article provides an overview of advances in neurostimulation for treating depression. METHODS: We conducted a comprehensive review of the neurostimulation literature to identify recent findings involving the description and rationale, efficacy, and side effects of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), magnetic seizure therapy (MST), and deep brain stimulation (DBS). RESULTS: VNS and TMS are the newest neurostimulation modalities that have been approved by the FDA for treating depression. VNS is approved for patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD), while TMS has demonstrated efficacy only for milder forms of TRD. Despite demonstrated efficacy, further research is needed to address certain limitations and/or determine how best to utilize these forms of neurostimulation. Investigational forms of neurostimulation include MST and DBS. Although MST and DBS have demonstrated promise as a depression treatment, research is still being conducted to determine and/or enhance their antidepressant properties. CONCLUSIONS: Although electroconvulsive therapy remains the primary and most effective treatment option for patients with severe TRD, there have been considerable gains in the field of neurostimulation. Many of the neurostimulation techniques described in this review represent promising treatment alternatives for patients with TRD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-224
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Clinical Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Magnetic seizure therapy
  • Neurostimulation
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • Treatment-resistant depression
  • Vagus nerve stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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