Assessment of treatment resistance criteria in non-invasive brain stimulation studies of schizophrenia

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Schizophrenia Research

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Novel treatment modalities, such as non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS), typically focus on patient groups that have failed multiple treatment interventions. Despite its promise, the clinical translation of NIBS in schizophrenia has been limited. One important obstacle to implementation is the inconsistent reporting of treatment resistance in the clinical trial literature contributing to heterogeneity in reported effects. In response, we develop a numerical approach to synthesize quality of assessment of Treatment-Resistant Schizophrenia (TRS) and apply this to studies investigating therapeutic response to NIBS in patients with schizophrenia. Literature search conducted through PubMed database identified 119 studies investigating Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Transcranial Electrical Stimulation in treating resistant schizophrenia symptoms. A quality score out of 11 was assigned to each study based on adherence to the international consensus guidelines for TRS developed by the Treatment Response and Resistance in Psychosis (TRRIP) group. Results revealed an overall paucity of studies with thorough assessment and/or reporting of TRS phenomenon, as evidenced by a mean quality score of 3.38/11 (SD: 1.01) for trials and 5.16/11 (SD: 1.57) for case reports, though this improved minimally since the publication of consensus criteria. Most studies considered treatment-resistance as a single dimensional construct by reporting resistance of a single symptom, and failed to establish treatment adherence, resistance time course and functional impairment. We conclude that the current NIBS literature in schizophrenia do not reflect its true effects on treatment-resistance. There is an urgent need to improve assessment and reporting standards of clinical trials that target TRS.