Background: The mesolimbic dopaminergic reward system seems to play a crucial role in reinforcing effects of nicotine. Recently, acute high-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) of frontal brain regions has been shown to efficiently modulate the mesostriatal and mesolimbic dopaminergic system in both animals and humans. For this reason, we investigated whether high-frequency rTMS would be able to influence nicotine-related behavior by studying rTMS effects on craving and cigarette smoking.
Method: Fourteen treatment-seeking smokers were included in a double-blind crossover trial, conducted in 2002, comparing single days of active versus sham stimulation. Outcome measures were rTMS effects on number of cigarettes smoked during an ad libitum smoking period and effects on craving after a period of acute abstinence.
Results: High-frequency (20-Hz) rTMS of left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex reduced cigarette smoking significantly (p <.01) in an active stimulation compared with sham stimulation. Levels of craving did not change significantly.
Conclusion: High-frequency rTMS may be useful for treatment in smoking cessation.