Influence of Improved Behavioral Inhibition on Decreased Cue-Induced Craving in Heroin Use Disorder: A Preliminary Intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation Study

SOURCE: Journal of Psychiatric Research. 152:375-383, 2022 Aug.

AUTHORS: Kang T; Ding X; Zhao J; Li X; Xie R; Jiang H; He L; Hu Y; Liang J; Zhou G; Huo X

BACKGROUND: Impaired behavioral inhibition is a critical factor in drug addiction and relapse. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) reduces the craving of heroin-addicted individuals for drug-related cues. However, it is unclear whether this technique also improves impaired behavioral inhibition and how improved behavioral inhibition affects craving.\

OBJECTIVE: The intermittent theta-burst stimulation (iTBS) has been recently shown to be non-inferior relative to rTMS for depression. Here, we aim to investigate the effect of iTBS on heroin-addicted individuals’ behavioral inhibition and cue-induced craving and the relationship between
the alteration of behavioral inhibition and craving. 

METHOD: 42 of 56 initially recruited individuals with the heroin-use disorder in the abstinent-course treatment were randomized to undergo active or sham iTBS to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and received three daily iTBS treatments for 10 consecutive days. We measured participants’ performance during a two-choice oddball task (80% standard and 20% deviant trials) and heroin-related cue-induced craving before and immediately after treatment.

RESULTS: The group that received active iTBS showed significantly improved two-choice oddball task performance after 10 days of intervention compared to both pre-intervention and the group who received sham iTBS. Similarly, a significant reduction in cue-induced craving was observed
after following the intervention in the active iTBS group but not the sham iTBS group. The moderation model indicated that iTBS categories play a significant moderating role in the relationship between accuracy cost changing and altered cue-induced craving.

CONCLUSIONS: The iTBS treatment protocol positively affects behavioral inhibition in patients with heroin addiction.