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Keywords:

  • neurostimulation;
  • vagus nerve stimulation;
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation;
  • deep brain stimulation;
  • psychiatry;
  • review

Objective:  In response to an increased understanding of the neurobiology of severe psychiatric disorders, new therapeutic modalities are entering clinical practice that involve the direct stimulation of the brain.

Method:  We provide a review of published literature regarding the clinical use of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and deep brain stimulation (DBS) in psychiatric disorders, with an emphasis on treatment-resistant depression (TRD).

Results:  Vagus nerve stimulation is approved for use in both the EU and US for TRD. TMS has been approved for TRD in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and Israel, but not yet in the United States. DBS remains in the early stages of investigation.

Conclusion:  While additional studies are clearly warranted, treatments that directly stimulate the brain appear to hold great therapeutic promise for severe psychiatric disorders.