Does non-invasive brain stimulation reduce essential tremor? A systematic review and meta-analysis

PLoS One. 2017 Sep 28;12(9):e0185462. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0185462. eCollection 2017.


Essential tremor (ET) is the most common age-related disease leading to abnormal tremulous behaviors in the upper and lower extremities. Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) may be an effective ET therapy by modulating the oscillating network of the brain. The current systematic review and meta-analysis examined the effects of NIBS interventions on tremor symptoms in ET patients. Our comprehensive search identified eight studies that used 1 Hz of rTMS, cTBS, or ctDCS protocols. Twenty total comparisons from the eight qualified studies were statistically synthesized, and the meta-analytic findings revealed that NIBS techniques reduced tremulous behaviors in individuals with ET. Moreover, the four moderator variable analyses demonstrated that the positive therapeutic effects of NIBS appeared across the following subgroups: (a) tremor assessment (clinical test vs. quantitative tremor assessment), (b) stimulation site (cerebellum vs. motor cortex), (c) session number (single session vs. multiple sessions), and (d) sustained positive treatment effect (posttest vs. retention test). This comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis provided evidence that support positive treatment effects of NIBS techniques on ET motor therapy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Demography
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Essential Tremor / therapy*
  • Female
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Publication Bias
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*

Grants and funding

Publication of this article was funded in part by the University of Florida Open Access Publishing Fund.