A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Efficacy of Intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation (iTBS) on Cognitive Enhancement [Review]

SOURCE: Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 135:104587, 2022 04.

AUTHORS: Pabst A; Proksch S; Mede B; Comstock DC; Ross JM; Balasubramaniam R

ABSTRACT: Intermittent theta-burst stimulation (iTBS) has been used to focally
regulate excitability of neural cortex over the past decade – however there is little consensus on the generalizability of effects reported in individual studies. Many studies use small sample sizes (N < 30), and there is a considerable amount of methodological heterogeneity in application of the stimulation itself. This systematic meta-analysis aims to consolidate the extant literature and determine if up-regulatory theta-burst stimulation reliably enhances cognition through measurable behavior. Results show that iTBS – when compared to suitable control
conditions – may enhance cognition when outlier studies are removed, but also that there is a significant amount of heterogeneity across studies. Significant contributors to between-study heterogeneity include location of stimulation and method of navigation to the stimulation site. Surprisingly, the type of cognitive domain investigated was not a significant contributor of heterogeneity. The findings of this meta-analysis demonstrate that standardization of iTBS is urgent and necessary to determine if neuroenhancement of particular cognitive faculties are reliable and robust, and measurable through observable behavior.