Clinical pilot study of transcranial direct current stimulation combined with Cognitive Emotional Training for medication resistant depression

D. M. Martin, J. Z. Teng, T. Y. Lo, A. Alonzo, T. Goh, B. M. Iacoviello, M. M. Hoch, C. K. Loo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background: While the clinical results from transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) for the treatment of depression have been promising, antidepressant effects in patients with medication resistance have been suboptimal. There is therefore a need to further optimise tDCS for medication resistant patients. In this clinical pilot study we examined the feasibility, safety, and clinical efficacy of combining tDCS with a psychological intervention which targets dysfunctional circuitry related to emotion regulation in depression, Cognitive Emotional Training (CET). Methods: tDCS was administered during CET three times a week for a total of 18 sessions over 6 weeks. Mood, cognition and emotion processing outcomes were examined at baseline and after 3 and 6 weeks of treatment. Results: Twenty patients with medication resistant depression participated, of whom 17 were study completers. tDCS combined with CET was found to be feasible, safe, and associated with significant antidepressant efficacy at 6 weeks, with 41% of study completers showing treatment response (≥ 50% improvement in depression score). There were no significant cognitive enhancing effects with the exception of improved emotion recognition. Responders demonstrated superior recognition for the emotions fear and surprise at pre-treatment compared to non-responders, suggesting that better pre-treatment emotion recognition may be associated with antidepressant efficacy. Limitations: This was an open label study. Conclusions: tDCS combined with CET has potential as a novel method for optimising the antidepressant efficacy of tDCS in medication resistant patients. Future controlled studies are required to determine whether tDCS combined with CET has greater antidepressant efficacy compared to either intervention alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-95
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Cognition
  • Depression
  • Resistance
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation


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