Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) occurs in about 2% of the population worldwide. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants are the most commonly used treatment for OCD, but not all patients respond adequately to them.
At the 2015 meeting of the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Society, researcher Joseph Zohar presented evidence that deep repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) targeted over the medial prefrontal cortex may reduce OCD symptoms. In rTMS treatment, an electromagnetic coil is placed against the patient’s head and magnetic pulses that can penetrate the scalp are converted into small electrical currents that stimulate neurons in the brain. In Zohar’s study, patients with OCD were randomized to receive deep rTMS at frequencies of either 20 Hz or 1 Hz, or a sham procedure. The 20 Hz rTMS resulted in a 28% reduction in OCD symptoms compared to the other two groups, indicating that the 20 Hz treatment had a large effect size.
In addition to the rTMS procedures, all patients also received cognitive behavioral therapy, high doses of SSRIs, and relapse prevention training.