Effectiveness of the prefrontal repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on cognitive profiles in depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease: A systematic review

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Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is an effective clinical intervention for various neuropsychiatric diseases. However, it is still unclear whether rTMS has an effect on cognitive functioning. In this review, we aimed to systematically evaluate the cognitive effects of rTMS in depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease. We searched PubMed (1996–2018) under the set terms to review randomized controlled trials (RCT) to examine the effectiveness of rTMS administered to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and evaluated cognitive functions in patients with depression, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease. Two authors reviewed each article and came to consensus on the inclusion and exclusion criteria. All eligible studies were reviewed, duplicates were removed, and data were extracted individually. The search identified 579 articles, 31 of which met inclusion and exclusion criteria. Among them, 15 were conducted in patients with depression, 11 in patients with schizophrenia, and 5 in patients with Alzheimer's disease. Specifically, 6 studies demonstrated a significant improvement of executive function across these diseases. Further, no evidence for cognitive adverse effects was found in these included rTMS studies. Although the heterogeneity between studies in terms of cognitive measures applied, stimulation parameters, and participants limits the ability to generalize conclusions, this review demonstrated that prefrontal rTMS could exert pro-cognitive effects on executive function and attention in some patients with depression but inconsistent cognitive impacts in any of the examined domains especially in patients with schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease. The results warrant further rTMS studies that include systematic assessment of cognition across various neuropsychiatric diseases.HighlightsPrefrontal rTMS could exert partial pro-cognitive effects in depression.rTMS has inconsistent cognitive impacts in schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease.rTMS studies with comprehensive cognitive assessment in these diseases are needed.

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