Animal models of the mechanisms of action of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (RTMS): Comparisons with electroconvulsive shock (ECS)

Sarah H. Lisanby, Robert H. Belmaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a noninvasive means of brain stimulation with a broad range of basic neuroscience and potential future clinical applications. Recent animal studies have shed some light on the mechanisms of action of rTMS, and broadened our understanding of how this intervention affects brain functioning acutely and chronically. Differences in the physical properties of magnetic and electrical stimulation result in marked disparities in the amount and distribution of electrical current induced in the brain; nevertheless, rTMS shares many of the behavioral and biochemical actions of electroconvulsive shock (ECS) and other antidepressant treatments. rTMS reduces immobility in the Porsolt swim task and enhances apomorphine-induced stereotypy, as does ECS. Although rTMS can induce a seizure when given at high enough doses, most studies have found subconvulsive levels of rTMS to be anticonvulsant. rTMS acutely modulates dopamine and serotonin cogent and turnover rates. Chronic rTMS modulates cortical β-adrenergic receptors, reduces frontal cortex 5-HT2 receptors, increases 5-hydroxytryptamine(1A) receptors in frontal cortex and cingulate, and increases N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors in the ventromedial hypothalamus, basolateral amygdala, and parietal cortex. More work will be needed to clarify and explore the mechanism behind the early suggestions that rTMS may exert long-term-potentiation-like or long-term-depression-like action on hippocampal activity. Finally, rTMS is emerging as yet another intervention, like ECS and other antidepressants, that can regulate gene expression and may have an impact on neuronal viability and synaptic plasticity. (C) 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-187
Number of pages10
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number3
StatePublished - 18 Dec 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Animal models
  • Brain stimulation
  • Depression
  • Electroconvulsive shock
  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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