Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) for the treatment of depression in adolescence: a systematic review

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Background: There is evidence that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is effective for treating adult depression. However, it remains unclear whether rTMS is an effective treatment for adolescent depression. This systematic review examines the existing literature on the effectiveness and acceptability of rTMS in the treatment of adolescent depression. 

Methods: After protocol registration (PROSPERO), we searched PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO, WoS and CENTRAL databases and the grey literature. We included studies that used rTMS in adolescents aged 12–25 years old who had a clinical diagnosis of depression. Study quality was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. 

Results: Fourteen studies were identified, which included 8 open-trial studies (N = 142 participants) and six studies which performed further post-hoc/follow-up analyses on these open-trial datasets. All studies suffered from multiple biases but reported that rTMS treatment reduced depression scores in adolescents. A single study on theta burst stimulation also found a positive effect. No study to date includes a sham control. Reported side effects of rTMS included scalp pain, headache and dizziness. Limitations: Study methodologies precluded a meta-analysis. 

Conclusions: The current literature signals that rTMS could reduce adolescent depressive symptoms. However, sham controlled randomized trials are needed. These findings suggest that rTMS may be a promising treatment option for adolescents with depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-469
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Early online date15 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Adolescents
  • Depression
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • Rtms
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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