Deep TMS on alcoholics: effects on cortisolemia and dopamine pathway modulation. A pilot study

Background:

The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis and dopamine have a key role in transition from alcohol social use to addiction. The medial prefrontal cortex was shown to modulate dopaminergic activity and cortisol releasing factor (CRF) release in hypothalamic and extra-hypothalamic systems. The recent advancements in non-invasive neurostimulation technologies has enabled stimulation of deeper brain regions using H-coil transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in humans.

Objective:

This randomized double-blind placebo-controlled pilot study aims to evaluate H-coil efficacy in stimulating the medial prefrontal cortex.

Method:

Cortisolemia and prolactinemiawere evaluated as effectiveness markers. Alcohol intake and craving were considered as secondary outcomes. Eighteen alcoholics were recruited and randomized into 2 homogeneous groups: 9 in the real stimulation group and 9 in the sham stimulation group. Repetitive TMS (rTMS) was administered through a magnetic stimulator over 10 sessions at 20 Hz, directed to the medial prefrontal cortex.

Results:

rTMS significantly reduced blood cortisol levels and decreased prolactinemia, thus suggesting dopamine increase. Craving visual analogic scale (VAS) in treated patients decreased, as well as mean number of alcoholic drinks/day and drinks on days of maximum alcohol intake (DMAI). In the sham group there was no significant effect observed on cortisolemia, prolactinemia, mean number of alcoholic drinks/day, or drinks/DMAI.

Conclusions:

Deep rTMS could be considered a potential new treatment for alcoholism.

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