Using Brain Imaging to Improve Spatial Targeting of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Depression

Robin F.H. Cash, Anne Weigand, Andrew Zalesky, Shan H. Siddiqi, Jonathan Downar, Paul B. Fitzgerald, Michael D. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

133 Citations (Scopus)


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an effective treatment for depression but is limited in that the optimal therapeutic target remains unknown. Early TMS trials lacked a focal target and thus positioned the TMS coil over the prefrontal cortex using scalp measurements. Over time, it became clear that this method leads to variation in the stimulation site and that this could contribute to heterogeneity in antidepressant response. Newer methods allow for precise positioning of the TMS coil over a specific brain location, but leveraging these precise methods requires a more precise therapeutic target. We review how neuroimaging is being used to identify a more focal therapeutic target for depression. We highlight recent studies showing that more effective TMS targets in the frontal cortex are functionally connected to deep limbic regions such as the subgenual cingulate cortex. We review how connectivity might be used to identify an optimal TMS target for use in all patients and potentially even a personalized target for each individual patient. We address the clinical implications of this emerging field and highlight critical questions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-700
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021


  • Depression
  • Functional connectivity
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Subgenual cingulate cortex
  • Target
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

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