The use of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for modulating craving and addictive behaviours: a critical literature review of efficacy, technical and methodological considerations

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2014 Nov;47:592-613. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.10.013.


Objectives: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a potential therapeutic intervention for the treatment of addiction. This critical review aims to summarise the recent developments with respect to the efficacy of rTMS for all types of addiction and related disorders (including eating disorders), and concentrates on the associated methodological and technical issues.

Methods: The bibliographic search consisted of a computerised screening of the Medline and ScienceDirect databases up to December 2013. Criteria for inclusion were the target problem was an addiction, a related disorder, or craving; the intervention was performed using rTMS; and the study was a clinical trial.

Results: Of the potential 638 articles, 18 met the criteria for inclusion. Most of these (11 of the 18) supported the efficacy of rTMS, especially in the short term. In most cases, the main assessment criterion was the measurement of craving using a Visual Analogue Scale.

Discussion: The results are discussed with respect to the study limitations and, in particular, the many methodological and technical discrepancies that were identified. Key recommendations are provided.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology
  • Behavior, Addictive / therapy*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Craving / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome