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Cortical Stimulation of the Prefrontal Cortex With Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Reduces Cue-Provoked Smoking Craving: A Randomized, Sham-Controlled Study

J Clin Psychiatry 2008;69:32-40

Objective: Because neuroimaging studies have shown that cue-provoked smoking craving is associated with changes in the activity of the bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), we aimed to investigate whether a powerful technique of noninvasive brain stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), reduces cue-provoked smoking craving as indexed by a visual analog scale.

Method: We performed a randomized, sham-controlled crossover study in which 24 subjects received sham and active tDCS (anodal tDCS of the left and right DLPFC) in a randomized order. Craving was induced by cigarette manipulation and exposure to a smoking video. The study ran from January 2006 to October 2006.

Results: Smoking craving was significantly increased after exposure to smoking-craving cues (p < .0001). Stimulation of both left and right DLPFC with active, but not sham, tDCS reduced craving significantly when comparing craving at baseline and after stimulation, without (p = .007) and with (p = .005) smoking-craving cues. There were no significant mood changes in any of the conditions of stimulation. Adverse events were mild and distributed equally across all treatment conditions.

Conclusions: Our findings extend the results of a previous study on the use of brain stimulation to reduce craving, showing that cortical stimulation with tDCS is beneficial for reducing cue-provoked craving, and thus support the further exploration of this technique for smoking cessation.