Childhood trauma mediates repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation efficacy in major depressive disorder

Yu Ting Hu, Xi Wen Hu, Jin Fang Han, Jian Feng Zhang, Ying Ying Wang, Annemarie Wolff, Sara Tremblay, Zhong Lin Tan, Georg Northoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Childhood trauma is one of the most prominent risk factors in developing major depressive disorder (MDD) and may lead to unfavorable outcomes of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy in MDD. While how it modulates the treatment outcome of the repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and how sex difference may play a role in mediating this relationship remain unknown. To evaluate this question, 52 (38 women) MDD patients were treated with 10 Hz rTMS to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (lDLPFC). The experience of childhood trauma was quantified by the Childhood Traumatic Questionnaire (CTQ). The depressive severity was assessed by Hamilton Depression Scale (HAMD) and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) as the primary and secondary assessments. Beck Hopelessness Scale (BHS) and Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAMA) were also assessed for further confirmation. Thirty-seven (71.2%) participants showed a response including 18 (34.6%) achieving remission to the rTMS treatment. The alleviation of depressive symptoms was negatively correlated with the CTQ scores, specifically in women but not men, in subjective BDI and BHS, but not objective HAMD or HAMA. We demonstrate that childhood trauma negatively affects the subjective perception of rTMS-lDLPFC treatment outcomes in female MDD patients. This highlights the importance of measuring childhood trauma-related symptoms in routine clinical rTMS treatment, as they may impact perceived efficacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1255-1263
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number7
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Childhood trauma
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • Sex difference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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