Low frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex transiently increases cue-induced craving for methamphetamine: a preliminary study

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Dec 1;133(2):641-6. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.08.012. Epub 2013 Aug 26.


Background: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) can temporarily interrupt or facilitate activity in a focal brain region. Several lines of evidence suggest that rTMS of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) can affect processes involved in drug addiction. We hypothesized that a single session of low-frequency rTMS of the left DLPFC would modulate cue-induced craving for methamphetamine (MA) when compared to a sham rTMS session.

Methods: In this single-blind, sham-controlled crossover study, 10 non-treatment seeking MA-dependent users and 8 healthy controls were randomized to receive 15 min of sham and real (1 Hz) DLPFC rTMS in two experimental sessions separated by 1h. During each rTMS session, participants were exposed to blocks of neutral cues and MA-associated cues. Participants rated their craving after each cue block.

Results: In MA users, real rTMS over the left DLPFC increased self-reported craving as compared to sham stimulation (17.86 ± 1.46 vs. 24.85 ± 1.57, p=0.001). rTMS had no effect on craving in healthy controls. One Hertz rTMS of the left DLPFC was safe and tolerable for all participants.

Conclusions: Low frequency rTMS of the left DLPFC transiently increased cue-induced craving in MA participants. These preliminary results suggest that 1 Hz rTMS of the left DLPFC may increase craving by inhibiting the prefrontal cortex or indirectly activating subcortical regions involved in craving.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01685463.

Keywords: Craving; Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; Methamphetamine; Transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants*
  • Cues*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Seizures / etiology
  • Seizures / physiopathology
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / adverse effects
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methamphetamine

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01685463