Is Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) a Promising Therapeutic Intervention For Eating Disorders And Obesity? Clinical Considerations Based on A Meta-Analytic Review

SOURCE: Clinical Neuropsychiatry. 19(5) (pp 314-327), 2022.


AUTHORS: Cavicchioli M.; Sarzetto A.; Erzegovesi S.; Ogliari A.

OBJECTIVE: Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) has been introduced to treat eating disorders (EDs), especially Anorexia, Bulimia Nervosa (AN and BN) and other EDs not otherwise specified (NOS). Provisional rTMS single-case studies and clinical trials have been carried out for the treatment of binge eating disorder (BED) and obesity. However, it is still unclear whether and to what extent rTMS might be considered an effective intervention for these conditions.

METHOD(S): This meta-analysis includes 15 independent studies examining the clinical effects of rTMS among different EDs and obesity (N = 402 patients). Several primary and secondary treatment outcomes have been considered. Cohen’s d was used as an effect size measure. The analyses estimate heterogeneity across findings, sources of variability and publication bias together with an assessment of the quality of the studies.

RESULT(S): The analyses show that rTMS induced large improvements in body mass index (BMI) among obese individuals. Null clinical effects have been detected for primary outcomes (i.e., BMI, binge eating and compensatory behaviors; urge to binge and to eat; severity of EDs symptoms) among individuals with AN, BN and other EDs-NOS. rTMS shows moderate therapeutic effects on the affective functioning (i.e., negative affectivity, depressive and anxious symptoms) of individuals with EDs. rTMS should be considered a promising intervention for the treatment of obesity.

CONCLUSION(S): This evidence might provisionally support the hypothesis on the implementation   of rTMS for BED. Furthermore, rTMS could be included as an ancillary intervention for the other EDs, especially considering secondary treatment outcomes. Future controlled trials are needed to clarify the clinical effects of rTMS for EDs.