Intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation for Negative Symptoms of Schizophrenia-A Double-Blind, Sham-Controlled Pilot Study

SOURCE: npj Schizophrenia. 7 (1) (no pagination), 2021. Article Number: 10. Date of Publication: December 2021.

AUTHORS: Bation R.; Magnin C.; Poulet E.; Mondino M.; Brunelin J.

Optimal noninvasive brain stimulation parameters for the treatment of negative symptoms of schizophrenia remain unclear. Here, we aimed to investigate the clinical and biological effects of intermittent theta burst transcranial magnetic stimulation (iTBS) in patients with treatment-resistant negative symptoms of schizophrenia (NCT00875498). In a randomized sham-controlled 2-arm study, 22 patients with schizophrenia and treatment-resistant negative symptoms received 20 sessions of either active (n = 12) or sham (n = 10) iTBS. Sessions were delivered twice a day on 10 consecutive working days. Negative symptom severity was assessed 5 times using the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS): before iTBS, after iTBS, and 1, 3, and 6 months after iTBS. As a secondary objective, we explored the acute effects of iTBS on functional connectivity of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) using seed-based resting-state functional connectivity MRI (rsFC fMRI) images acquired before and after iTBS. Active iTBS over the left DLPFC significantly decreased negative symptoms severity compared to sham iTBS (F(3,60) = 3.321, p = 0.026). Post hoc analyses revealed that the difference between groups was significant 6 months after the end of stimulation sessions. Neuroimaging revealed an increase in rsFC between the left DLPFC and a brain region encompassing the right lateral occipital cortex and right angular gyrus and a right midbrain region that may encompass dopamine neuron cell bodies. Thus, iTBS over the left DLPFC can alleviate negative symptoms of schizophrenia. The effect might be driven by significant modulation of dopamine transmission.