Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation of the Occipital Lobes With Adjunct Lithium Attenuates the Progression of Cognitive Impairment in Patients With First Episode Schizophrenia

SOURCE: Frontiers in Psychiatry. 13 (no pagination), 2022. Article Number: 962918.


AUTHORS: Zhuo C.; Tian H.; Zhou C.; Sun Y.; Chen X.; Li R.; Chen J.; Yang L.; Li Q.; Zhang Q.; Xu Y.; Song X.

There is no standard effective treatment for schizophrenia-associated cognitive impairment. Efforts to use non-invasive brain stimulation for this purpose have been focused mostly on the frontal cortex, with little attention being given to the occipital lobe.

MATERIAL(S) AND METHOD(S): We compared the effects of nine intervention strategies on cognitive performance in psychometric measures and brain connectivity measured obtained from functional magnetic resonance imaging analyses. The strategies consisted of transcranial direct current stimulation (t-DCS) or repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (r-TMS) of the frontal lobe or of the occipital alone or with adjunct lithium, or lithium monotherapy. We measured global functional connectivity density (gFCD) voxel-wise.

RESULT(S): Although all nine patient groups showed significant improvements in global disability scoresC (GDSs) following the intervention period (vs. before), the greatest improvement in GDS was observed for the group that received occipital lobe-targeted t-DCS with adjunct lithium therapy. tDCS of the occipital lobe improved gFCD throughout the brain, including in the frontal lobes, whereas stimulation of the frontal lobes had less far-reaching benefits on gFCD in the brain. Adverse secondary effects (ASEs) such as heading, dizziness, and nausea, were commonly experienced by patients treated with t-DCS and r-TMS, with or without lithium, whereas ASEs were rare with lithium alone.

CONCLUSION(S): The most effective treatment strategy for impacting cognitive impairment and brain communication was t-DCS stimulation of the occipital lobe with adjunct lithium therapy, though patients often experienced headache with dizziness and nausea after treatment sessions.