Combining Trauma Script Exposure With rTMS to Reduce Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Randomized Controlled Trial

SOURCE: Neuromodulation. 25(4):549-557, 2022 Jun.

AUTHORS: Thierree S; Raulin-Briot M; Legrand M; Le Gouge A; Vancappel A; Tudorache AC; Brizard B; Clarys D; Caille A; El-Hage W

BACKGROUND: Innovative therapeutic interventions for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are required. We opted to facilitate fear extinction by combining trauma script exposure with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to reduce symptoms of PTSD.

OBJECTIVE: The efficacy and safety of 10 Hz rTMS of the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex simultaneously with exposure to personal traumatic narrative were studied in patients with PTSD.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: This trial was a single-center randomized controlled trial (NCT02584894). Patients were randomly assigned 1:1 to receive eight daily sessions of 110% of motor threshold high frequency (HF) 10 Hz rTMS (110% HF rTMS) or 70% low frequency (LF) 1 Hz rTMS (70% LF rTMS) with trauma script exposure in both groups. Severity of PTSD, depression, and anxiety were assessed before and after study treatment (one month, three months) by an assessor masked to the trial group
assignment. The primary outcome was the severity of PTSD assessed by the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS). We used mixed linear regression models for statistical comparisons.

RESULTS: Thirty-eight patients (65.8% females) were randomly assigned to 110% HF rTMS (n = 18, 31.3 +/- 10.0 years, 13 females) or 70% LF rTMS (n = 20, 33.5 +/- 11.1 years, 12 females). From baseline to three months, mean CAPS scores decreased by 51% in the 110% HF rTMS group (from 83.7 +/- 14.4 to 41.8 +/- 31.9) and by 36.9% in the 70% LF rTMS group (from 81.8 +/- 15.6 to 51.6 +/- 23.7), but with no significant difference in improvement (time by treatment interaction -3.61 [95% confidence interval (CI), -9.70 to 2.47]; p = 0.24; effect size 0.53). One serious adverse event occurred during the study (psychogenic nonepileptic seizure).

CONCLUSION: We found no evidence of difference in clinical improvement or remission rates between the 110% HF and 70% LF stimulation. These findings may reflect the importance of exposure procedure and that larger number of participants is needed.