Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) appears to be efficacious in the treatment of major depression based on the results of controlled studies, but little is known about its antidepressant mechanism of action. Mood sensitivity following rapid tryptophan depletion (RTD) has been demonstrated in depressed patients responding to SSRI antidepressants and phototherapy, but not in responders to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). We sought to study the effects of RTD in patients with major depression responding to a course of treatment with rTMS. Twelve subjects treated successfully with rTMS monotherapy underwent both RTD and sham depletion in a double-blind crossover design. Depressive symptoms were assessed using both a modified Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). The differential change in depression scores across the procedures was compared. No significant difference in mood symptoms was noted between RTD and the sham-depletion procedure on either continuous measures of depression, or in the proportions of subjects that met predefined criteria for a significant degree of mood worsening. Responders to rTMS are resistant to the mood perturbing effects of RTD. This suggests that rTMS does not depend on the central availability of serotonin to exert antidepressant effects in major depression.
- Major depression
- Tryptophan depletion