Last updated on February 2018

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Cocaine Addiction


Brief description of study

Background: Cocaine use disorders (CUD) is a complex brain disorder, involving several brain areas and neurocircuits. Effective treatments for CUD are still needed. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) stimulates non-invasively parts of the brain. Preliminary data suggest that rTMS may help reducing cocaine craving and consumption. Researchers want to learn how the brain and the drug-seeking behavior may change with this treatment.

Objectives: To test if rTMS can reduce cocaine craving and use, and also affect several mood, behavioral and cognitive alterations associated with prolonged cocaine use.

Eligibility: Healthy, right-handed adults ages 18-65 who do have cocaine use disorder (moderate to severe).

Design: This is a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled study. The study includes three phases: 1) a rTMS continued treatment phase; a rTMS follow-up; and a no rTMS follow-up.

Prior to participating, participants will be screened with:

  • Questionnaires
  • Medical history
  • Physical exam
  • Urine tests
  • MRI (structural)

After being enrolled, baseline behavioral and imaging data will be collected. In particular, participants will undergo:

  • Questionnaires
  • Functional MRI

During the continued rTMS phase, participants with cocaine use disorder will be randomized to receive real or fake rTMS. Repetitive TMS will be delivered during 10 outpatient treatment days, over 2 weeks (5 days/week). Following this phase, subjects will have 12 follow-up visits (once/weekly), during which they will receive rTMS, and behavioral and imaging assessments will be performed. At the end of the rTMS follow up period, participants will further receive 3 follow up visits (once a month), during which rTMS will not be performed, but behavioral data will be collected.

Treatment includes:

  • rTMS: A coil is placed on the head. A brief electrical current passes through the coil. At each visit, participants will receive two rTMS sessions, with a 1hr interval between sessions. At the beginning of each rTMS session, they view cocaine-related images for few minutes.
  • MRIs at baseline and at follow-up visit #12: Participants lie on a table that slides into a cylinder that takes pictures of the brain. They respond to images while in the scanner.
  • Repeat of screening tests and questionnaires
  • Urine toxicological screen

Detailed Study Description

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has been shown to reduce craving in cocaine addicts. However, the efficacy of rTMS in treating cocaine addiction has not been evaluated in double-blind, sham-controlled studies and also, we lack a full characterization of rTMS effects on other important aspects, including effects on mood, cognition and changes in brain function. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) at 15 Hz frequency on the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in cocaine dependent patients and to examine possible changes in mood, cognition, and brain activity and functional connectivity associated with this intervention. For this purpose, the investigators will recruit cocaine dependent patients. After screening and informed consent, participants will undergo active or sham rTMS for two consecutive weeks (twice a day) during the continued treatment phase, and a maintenance intervention (twice a week for 3 months), during the rTMs follow-up phase. Following this phase, participants will be followed for further 3 months, during which no rTMS will be delivered but clinical and imaging data will be collected. The investigators will also measure clinical, cognitive and brain structural and functional connectivity to assess changes related to the intervention in the short and long term (measurements at: baseline, 2 weeks, 3 months, 6 months).

Procedure: The project consists of: Screening Visit (baseline), Part 1 (continued treatment phase), Part 2 (3 months- rTMS follow-up), Part 3 (3 months follow-up without rTMS). First, there will be a screening visit, where a clinical interview will be conducted and questionnaires and tests will be administered to identify study participants who meet the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Baseline clinical, cognitive and neuroimaging data will be acquired. The neuroimaging data will be exploratory, to be associated with the outcome measures. In Part 1, all participants will be randomly assigned to one of the two treatment arms with rTMS (15Hz, 15Hz-Sham). Participants will receive 2 sessions of rTMS (active or sham), twice per day for 10 consecutive days, for a total of 20 rTMS sessions. Following this, the investigators will evaluate the acute effect of treatment on cocaine craving and consumption, mood and cognition. Also, they will collect exploratory neuroimaging data (functional MRI and resting state functional connectivity). In Part 2 of the study, all participants will continue the assigned treatment arm with rTMS (15Hz, 15Hz-Sham) for three months. Participants will receive 2 sessions of rTMS (active or sham) once per week; clinical and cognitive data will be acquired once per month. The investigators will evaluate the effect of treatment on cocaine craving and consumption, mood and cognition. Also, they will collect exploratory neuroimaging data (functional MRI and resting state functional connectivity). In Part 3 of the study, participants will not receive any rTMS session. Clinical and cognitive data will be acquired once per month for three months. The investigators will evaluate the long-term effect of treatment on cocaine craving and consumption, mood and cognition.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03333460

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Recruitment Status: Open


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