clinical research

Panic Disorder

rTMS in the Treatment of Panic Disorder With Comorbid Major Depression

Detailed Description

This study tests the efficacy of repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) in the treatment of Panic Disorder (PD) with comorbid Major Depression (MDD).

Despite major advances in the treatment of PD, standard therapeutic interventions are not effective for all patients, and the most common reasons for treatment failure in PD are side effects and major depression comorbidity. rTMS is a non-invasive procedure that allows stimulation of the brain using magnetic fields. Some studies have reported that rTMS may be helpful in reducing panic and depressive symptoms. While promising, prior research has several limitations (e.g., relatively small sample sizes, relatively short durations of treatment, and lack of sham (placebo) comparison).

This study addresses the drawbacks of prior work, and will provide data that will be important in determining whether rTMS can be useful for PD patients with comorbid MDD and resistant to conventional therapies. In this trial, 20 adult outpatients with PD and comorbid MDD, that have been only partially responsive to conventional therapies, will be randomly assigned to one of two treatment groups (active low frequency (1 Hz) rTMS or sham-placebo) applied to the right Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex (DLPFC) daily for up to four weeks. If rTMS will be added onto ongoing pharmacotherapy, the doses must have been stable for 1 month prior to study entry. The right DLPFC was selected because it is one among several brain regions implicated in PD, and functional abnormalities in DLPFC have also been consistently replicated in MDD. Pilot work indicates that stimulation of right DLPFC with low frequency rTMS was beneficial in patients with PD and MDD. Low frequency rTMS has the added benefit of a better safety profile (i.e. low risk of seizure) compared to high frequency rTMS.

Rating scales for symptom change will be obtained at baseline, during the rTMS course, and at the end of 4 weeks of treatment. Patients who do not meet response criteria after four weeks of sham will be offered an open-label cross-over phase for an additional four weeks of daily active rTMS treatment while partial responders to either active or sham will be offered an open-label cross-over phase for an additional four weeks of daily active rTMS treatment. Patients who meet response criteria in either the randomized phase or the cross-over phase will continue routine clinical care under the supervision of their treating psychiatrist, and will be invited back for a repeat assessment at 1, 3 and 6 months to determine the persistence of benefit.


New York State Psychiatric InstituteNew York-PresbyterianThe Brain Stimulation & Therapeutic Modulation (BSTM) Division specializes in the use of emerging electromagnetic means of modulation brain function to study and treat psychiatric disorders. Columbia University Medical CenterDivision of Brain Stimulation & Therapeutic Modulation Home