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Exp Neurol. 2009 Sep;219(1):14-9. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2009.03.038. Epub 2009 Apr 5.

Treatment of depression with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS): a review.

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Georg-August-University, Department Clinical Neurophysiology, Robert-Koch-Strasse 40, 37099 Goettingen, Germany.


Major Depression Disorder (MDD) is usually accompanied by alterations of cortical activity and excitability, especially in prefrontal areas. These are reflections of a dysfunction in a distributed cortico-subcortical, bihemispheric network. Therefore it is reasonable to hypothesize that altering this pathological state with techniques of brain stimulation may offer a therapeutic target. Besides repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, tonic stimulation with weak direct currents (tDCS) modulates cortical excitability for hours after the end of stimulation, thus, it is a promising non-invasive therapeutic option. Early studies from the 1960s suggested some efficacy of DC stimulation to reduce symptoms in depression, but mixed results and development of psychotropic drugs resulted in an early abandonment of this technique. In the last years tDCS protocols have been optimized. Application of the newly developed stimulation protocols in patients with major depression has shown promise in few pilot studies. Further studies are needed to identify the optimal parameters of stimulation and the clinical and patient characteristics that may condition response to tDCS.

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