Anxiolytic effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation—an alternative treatment option in anxiety disorders?

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In contrast to major depression, only few studies are available so far on the effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in anxiety disorders. In order to summarise available data concerning the putative anxiolytic action of repetitive rTMS, a systematic literature review was carried out. Although interpretation of the results is difficult because of a large variety of used treatment protocols and the lack of a placebo-controlled design in the majority of studies, there is evidence for anxiolytic action of rTMS both from preclinical trials and studies in humans. Based on the idea of interhemispheric imbalance and/or deficits in cortico-limbic control as a model for human anxiety, inhibitory rTMS of the prefrontal cortex has been shown to exert beneficial effects in a number of studies in healthy subjects, patients with PTSD and panic disorder. However, to further elucidate the putative anxiolytic action of rTMS in patients with anxiety disorders future studies have to be conducted addressing in particular the limitations of the studies mentioned above.

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