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Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) holds promise for treating generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) but has only been studied in uncontrolled research.
This is the first randomised controlled trial (clinicaltrials.gov: NCT01659736) to investigate the efficacy and neural correlates of rTMS in GAD.
Twenty five participants (active n = 13; sham, n = 12) enrolled. rTMS was targeted at the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC, 1 Hz, 90% resting motor threshold).
Response and remission rates were higher in the active v. sham groups and there were significant group × time interactions for anxiety, worry and depressive symptoms, favouring active v. sham. In addition, right DLPFC activation during a decision-making gambling task increased at post-treatment for active rTMS only, and changes in neuroactivation correlated significantly with changes in worry symptoms.
Findings provide preliminary evidence that rTMS may improve GAD symptoms in association with modifying neural activity in the stimulation site.