The treatment of fatigue by non-invasive brain stimulation

Neurophysiol Clin. 2017 Apr;47(2):173-184. doi: 10.1016/j.neucli.2017.03.003. Epub 2017 Apr 11.


The use of non-invasive brain neurostimulation (NIBS) techniques to treat neurological or psychiatric diseases is currently under development. Fatigue is a commonly observed symptom in the field of potentially treatable pathologies by NIBS, yet very little data has been published regarding its treatment. We conducted a review of the literature until the end of February 2017 to analyze all the studies that reported a clinical assessment of the effects of NIBS techniques on fatigue. We have limited our analysis to repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). We found only 15 studies on this subject, including 8 tDCS studies and 7 rTMS studies. Of the tDCS studies, 6 concerned patients with multiple sclerosis while 6 rTMS studies concerned fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. The remaining 3 studies included patients with post-polio syndrome, Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Three cortical regions were targeted: the primary sensorimotor cortex, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the posterior parietal cortex. In all cases, tDCS protocols were performed according to a bipolar montage with the anode over the cortical target. On the other hand, rTMS protocols consisted of either high-frequency phasic stimulation or low-frequency tonic stimulation. The results available to date are still too few, partial and heterogeneous as to the methods applied, the clinical profile of the patients and the variables studied (different fatigue scores) in order to draw any conclusion. However, the effects obtained, especially in multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, are really carriers of therapeutic hope.

Keywords: Brain stimulation; Cortex; Fatigue; Fibromyalgia; Fibromyalgie; Multiple sclerosis; Neuromodulation; Sclérose en plaques; Stimulation cérébrale; Traitement; Treatment; rTMS; tDCS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain / surgery*
  • Fatigue / complications
  • Fatigue / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / therapy
  • Pain Management*
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation* / methods
  • Treatment Outcome