Individualized Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Auditory Verbal Hallucinations

  • End date
    Aug 1, 2026
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Columbia University
Updated on 4 October 2022


The Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is a type of brain stimulation that uses a magnet to change activity in the brain. rTMS uses magnetic pulses to induce an electrical current in the brain to alter brain activity and function in specific areas. For example, stimulating the part of the brain controlling movement will cause parts of the foot or leg to twitch. TMS is proposed as a novel treatment for people with schizophrenia. The investigators want to see if low frequency rTMS can lessen some of the symptoms of schizophrenia, specifically auditory verbal hallucinations. Auditory verbal hallucinations describe the experience of hearing voices that are not really there.


The large majority of patients with schizophrenia (Sz) experience auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH) as a core feature of their disorder. Treatment-resistant auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH) affect a third of patients with schizophrenia and can cause increased aggression, distress, suicide, and social dysfunction. The current standard of care is antipsychotic medication which can cause metabolic syndrome, sedation, orthostatic hypotension, extrapyramidal symptoms, and tardive dyskinesia among other adverse effects. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) emits a rapidly changing magnetic field over the scalp which induces current flow in underling brain tissue, either enhancing or disrupting function depending on the frequency of stimulation. It is generally well tolerated and repetitive TMS (rTMS) is currently FDA approved for treatment of depression. rTMS carries potential as an alternative treatment for schizophrenia patients with AVH who either do not respond to or do not tolerate medication. Inhibitory (1-Hz) standard TMS approaches, which use scalp-based targeting of speech perception areas such as left temperoparietal junction (TPJ) have yielded mixed results in reducing AVH, possibly due to variability of underlying brain anatomy between individual subjects. The influence of anatomical variability could be eliminated by individually positioning the TMS coil according to each patient's structural brain MRI. The proposed pilot project will investigate the clinical efficacy of open-label individualized MRI-guided TMS applied to the left TPJ in ten patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. If the results of the pilot study show promising reductions in AVH, it will set up the foundation for a larger sham-controlled clinical trial.

Condition Schizophrenia and Related Disorders
Treatment Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS)
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT05319080
SponsorColumbia University
Last Modified on4 October 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder
Completion of the study #7114 and availability of an acquired MRI scan
Capacity and willingness to provide informed consent
Mean AHRS item score of greater or equal to 2
If female and not infertile, must agree to use one of the following forms of contraception for the duration of study participation: systemic hormonal treatment, an intrauterine device (IUD) which was implanted at least 2 months prior to screening, or "double-barrier" contraception. Women of child bearing potential must have a negative pregnancy test at screening
Right handed
Normal hearing
Taking an antipsychotic medication at a stable dose for at least 4 weeks. All oral and depot antipsychotics are allowable

Exclusion Criteria

Substance use disorder (excluding nicotine) within last 90 days, or positive toxicology screen for any substance of abuse
Participation in study of investigational medication/device within 4 weeks
History of seizure, epilepsy and neurologic conditions with structural cerebral damage, including stroke, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases, meningoencephalitis or intracerebral abscess, parenchymal or leptomeningeal cancers, dementia, developmental disability, cerebrovascular disease, increased intracranial pressure, or central nervous system (CNS) tumors, brain surgery, head injury with loss of consciousness >1 hour or clear cognitive sequelae, intracranial metal implants, known structural brain lesion
Subjects with devices that may be affected by TMS (pacemaker, cardioverter defibrillator, medication pump, intracardiac line, cochlear implant, implanted brain stimulator/neurostimulator)
Subjects with suicidal ideation with intent or plan (indicated by affirmative answers to items 4 or 5 of the Suicidal Ideation section of the baseline C-SSRS) in the 6 months prior to screening or subjects who represent a significant risk of suicide in the opinion of the investigator
Frequent and persistent migraines
Clinically significant skin disease
Presence of unstable medical disorders, including those that are previously undiagnosed, untreated, inadequately treated, or active to an extent which might make participation hazardous. For example, hypertension, previous stroke, brain lesions, or heart disease
History of prior clinically significant, adverse response to neurostimulation
Current treatment with ototoxic medications (amino-glycosides, cisplatin)
MRI incompatible implants
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