Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) holds promise as a therapeutic tool in major depression. However, a means to assess the effects of a single rTMS session on mood to guide subsequent sessions would be desirable. The present study examined the effects of a single rTMS session on an affective go/no-go task known to measure emotional-cognitive deficits associated with major depression. Ten patients with an acute episode of unipolar major depression and eight partially or completely remitted (improved) patients underwent 1 Hz rTMS over the left and right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex prior to task performance. TMS over the mesial occipital cortex was used as a control. We observed significantly improved performance in depressed patients following right prefrontal rTMS. This beneficial effect declined with decreasing depression severity and tended to reverse in the improved group. Left prefrontal rTMS had no significant effect in the depressed group, but it resulted in impaired task performance in the improved group. Our findings indicate that the acute response of depressed patients to rTMS varies with the stimulation site and depression severity. Further studies are needed to determine whether the present paradigm could be used to predict antidepressant treatment success or to individualize stimulation parameters according to specific pathology.
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