Transcranial magnetic stimulation in the treatment of substance addiction

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 4.38). 07/2014; 1327(1). DOI: 10.1111/nyas.12479


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive method of brain stimulation used to treat a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders, but is still in the early stages of study as addiction treatment. We identified 19 human studies using repetitive TMS (rTMS) to manipulate drug craving or use, which exposed a total of 316 adults to active rTMS. Nine studies involved tobacco, six alcohol, three cocaine, and one methamphetamine. The majority of studies targeted high-frequency (5–20 Hz; expected to stimulate neuronal activity) rTMS pulses to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Only five studies were controlled clinical trials: two of four nicotine trials found decreased cigarette smoking; the cocaine trial found decreased cocaine use. Many aspects of optimal treatment remain unknown, including rTMS parameters, duration of treatment, relationship to cue-induced craving, and concomitant treatment. The mechanisms of rTMS potential therapeutic action in treating addictions are poorly understood, but may involve increased dopamine and glutamate function in corticomesolimbic brain circuits and modulation of neural activity in brain circuits that mediate cognitive processes relevant to addiction, such as response inhibition, selective attention, and reactivity to drug-associated cues. rTMS treatment of addiction must be considered experimental at this time, but appears to have a promising future.

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