The Role of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) in the Treatment of Behavioral Addictions: Two Case Reports and Review of the Literature. [Review]

Source: Journal of Behavioral Addictions. 10(2):361-370, 2021 Jul 06.

Authors: Cuppone D; Gomez Perez LJ; Cardullo S; Cellini N; Sarlo M; Soldatesca S; Chindamo S; Madeo G; Gallimberti L

Background: Several behaviors, besides consumption of psychoactive substances, produce short-term reward that may lead to persistent aberrant behavior despite adverse consequences. Growing evidence suggests that these behaviors warrant consideration as nonsubstance or “”behavioral”” addictions, such as pathological gambling, internet gaming disorder and internet addiction.

Case Presentation: Here, we report two cases of behavioral addictions (BA), compulsive sexual behavior disorder for online porn use and internet gaming disorder. A 57-years-old male referred a loss of control over his online pornography use, started 15 years before, while a 21-years-old male university student reported an excessive online gaming activity undermining his academic productivity and social life. Both patients underwent a high-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) protocol over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (l-DLPFC) in a multidisciplinary therapeutic setting. A decrease of addictive symptoms and an improvement of executive control were observed in both cases.

Discussion: Starting from these clinical observations, we provide a systematic review of the literature suggesting that BAs share similar neurobiological mechanisms to those underlying substance use disorders (SUD). Moreover, we discuss whether neurocircuit-based interventions, such as rTMS, might represent a potential effective treatment for BAs.