Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Effective Add-On for Bipolar Depression

transcranial magnetic stimulation
transcranial magnetic stimulation
For adults with bipolar depression, tDCS seems to be safe and effective as an add-on intervention.

HealthDay News — Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) appears to be effective and safe as an add-on intervention for adults with bipolar depression, according to a study published online in JAMA Psychiatry.

Bernardo Sampaio-Junior, MD, from the University of São Paulo in Brazil, and colleagues determined the efficacy and safety of tDCS as an add-on treatment for bipolar depression in a randomized trial conducted in an outpatient setting. Fifty-nine adults with type I or type II bipolar disorder in a major depressive episode and receiving a stable pharmacologic regimen were included in the study; participants had 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale scores above 17. Participants underwent 10 daily 30-minute active or sham tDCS sessions and then 1 session every 2 weeks until week 6.

The researchers found that patients in the active tDCS condition showed significantly superior improvement compared with those receiving sham treatment (βint = −1.68; P =.01). In the active vs the sham condition, the cumulative response rates were higher (67.6% vs 30.4%; P =.01), but the remission rates were not significantly higher (37.4% vs 19.1%; P =.18). The groups had similar adverse events, including treatment-emergent affective switches, except for localized skin redness, which was higher in the active group (54% vs 19%; P =.01).

Related Articles

“In this trial, tDCS was an effective, safe, and tolerable add-on intervention for this small bipolar depression sample,” the authors write. “Further trials should examine tDCS efficacy in a larger sample.”

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.


Sampaio-Junior B, Tortella G, Borrione L, et al. Efficacy and safety of transcranial direct current stimulation as an add-on treatment for bipolar depression: a randomized clinical trial [published online December 27, 2017]. JAMA Psychiatry. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.4040