LUPUS Brain: tACS to Target the Neurophysiology of Depression, Cognitive Deficits, and Pain in Patients With SLE

  • End date
    Dec 6, 2023
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Updated on 6 April 2022
depressive symptoms
depressed mood


The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of a type of non-invasive transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) on patients diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) who are experiencing depression.

Targeting depression in patients with SLE may provide benefit to these patients, as there is a clear relationship between chronic pain and depression. The investigators propose that a tACS stimulation montage that was previously used in depression could be beneficial to patients with SLE, resulting in reduced depression symptoms, thus resulting in reduced chronic pain and cognitive difficulties.


At the initial session, consent will be obtained and eligibility will be determined.

Eligible participants will undergo a structural MRI as part of the screening process, then be randomized and have 5 consecutive daily, 40 minute stimulation sessions.

Participants will be randomly assigned to one of three groups: sham stimulation, individualized alpha-tACS (usually 8-12 Hz), or individualized theta-tACS (individualized alpha frequency minus 4 Hz). Participation will include 1 to 11 visits.

Neurophysiological measures will be taken before and after the stimulation sessions on the first and fifth days of the intervention, as well as the 2-week follow-up and 4-week follow-up visits. Psychiatric clinical assessments will be performed at baseline (Day 1 of stimulation), Day 5 of stimulation, and at both follow-up visits using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS17), the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A), the Inventory of Depression and Anxiety Symptoms (IDAS), and the Comparative Pain Scale Chart. All participants will also be asked to complete self-report surveys via REDCap at a 3-month time point measured from completion of the intervention.

Condition Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, Depression
Treatment XCSITE100 Stimulator - Individualized theta-tACS, XCSITE100 Stimulator - Individualized alpha-tACS, XCSITE100 Stimulator - Active Sham
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04141046
SponsorUniversity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Last Modified on6 April 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Ages 18-65 years
Meets SLE diagnosis criteria
Low suicide risk
Not experiencing a manic episode
Stable on all SLE and psychiatric medications for 6 weeks prior to screening
Capacity to understand all relevant risks and potential benefits of the study

Exclusion Criteria

Drug-induced SLE and any other rheumatologic or autoimmune disease diagnosis (except for Sjogren's syndrome and mixed connective tissue disease)
Medical illness (unstable cardiac disease, AIDS, liver or renal impairment, or malignant disease within 5 years before screening visit) or treatment of same that could interfere with study participation
Neurological disorders, including but not limited to history of seizures (except childhood febrile seizures and electroconvulsive therapy induced seizures), dementia, history of stroke, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral aneurysm; History of moderate to severe traumatic brain injury (TBI); Frequent or severe migraines in the past 30 days before the screening visit
History of positive hepatitis B, hepatitis C antibody, HIV antibody/antigen; Opportunistic infection in the 12 weeks before initial study dosing OR currently undergoing treatment for a chronic opportunistic infection (TB, pneumocystis pneumonia, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus, herpes zoster, or atypical mycobacteria); Acute OR chronic infection requiring hospitalization in the 30 days before screening visit AND/OR administration of parenteral (IV or IM) antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, or anti-parasitic agents in the 30 days before screening visit
Have received intravenous glucocorticoids at a dosage of ≥ 500mg daily within the past month; Current use of benzodiazepines or anti-epileptic drugs
History of thrombophlebitis or thromboembolic disorders (e.g., blood clots) or serious adverse reactions to blood draws
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) diagnosis of alcohol of substance abuse (other than nicotine) within the last month or a DSM-IV diagnosis of alcohol or substance dependence (other than nicotine) within the last 6 months; Prior or current diagnosis of bipolar disorder, manic episodes, hypomanic episodes, or mixed episodes; Prior or current diagnosis of a psychotic disorder
Prior brain surgery; Any brain devices/implants, including cochlear implants and aneurysm clips or other factors that are contraindicated for undergoing an MRI
Pregnancy, nursing, or if female and fertile, unwilling to use appropriate birth control measures during study participation
Concurrent medical condition or treatment for a medical disorder that, in the opinion of the investigator, could confound interpretation of results or affect the patient's ability to fully participate in the study
Anything that, in the opinion of the investigator, would place the participant at increased risk or preclude the participant's full compliance with or completion of the study
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Additional screening procedures may be conducted by the study team before you can be confirmed eligible to participate.

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If you are confirmed eligible after full screening, you will be required to understand and sign the informed consent if you decide to enroll in the study. Once enrolled you may be asked to make scheduled visits over a period of time.

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Complete your scheduled study participation activities and then you are done. You may receive summary of study results if provided by the sponsor.

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