Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) to Treat Social Anxiety Disorder: Case Reports and a Review of the Literature

Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health 31 Oct 2013 RESEARCH ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1745017901309010180


Objectives: Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a common and debilitating anxiety disorders. However, few studies had been dedicated to the neurobiology underlying SAD until the last decade. Rates of non-responders to standard methods of treatment remain unsatisfactorily high of approximately 25%, including SAD. Advances in our understanding of SAD could lead to new treatment strategies. A potential non invasive therapeutic option is repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Thus, we reported two cases of SAD treated with rTMS Methods: The bibliographical search used Pubmed/Medline, ISI Web of Knowledge and Scielo databases. The terms chosen for the search were: anxiety disorders, neuroimaging, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. Results: In most of the studies conducted on anxiety disorders, except SAD, the right prefrontal cortex (PFC), more specifically dorsolateral PFC was stimulated, with marked results when applying high-rTMS compared with studies stimulating the opposite side. However, according to the “valence hypothesis”, anxiety disorders might be characterized by an interhemispheric imbalance associated with increased right-hemispheric activity. With regard to the two cases treated with rTMS, we found a decrease in BDI, BAI and LSAS scores from baseline to follow-up. Conclusion: We hypothesize that the application of low-rTMS over the right medial PFC (mPFC; the main structure involved in SAD circuitry) combined with high-rTMS over the left mPFC, for at least 4 weeks on consecutive weekdays, may induce a balance in brain activity, opening an attractive therapeutic option for the treatment of SAD.

Keywords: : Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, social anxiety disorders, valence hypothesis.
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