A GP guide to brain stimulation techniques

Transcranial direct current stimulation is shaping up as a non-invasive, more easily accessible new treatment option for major depressive disorder

Need to know:

  • Novel non-invasive brain stimulation techniques such as (transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) use a magnetic coil or electrodes placed on the scalp — without the need for surgery, sedation or anaesthesia — to remedy the dysfunction in cortical activity that underlies neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as depression.
  • tDCS has been shown in clinical trials to have significant antidepressant effects.
  • There is a growing consensus in clinical guidelines in the UK, Canada, Europe and Australia that there is evidence for the efficacy of tDCS in treating depression, although further research is needed to establish the optimal treatment parameters.
  • A recent Australian trial found that tDCS could be self-administered by the patient at home, under close clinical supervision, demonstrating its safety and effectiveness.
  • The therapy is especially