Amphetamine-type stimulants are the second most commonly abused illicit drug worldwide, with no effective medical treatments currently available. Previous studies have demonstrated that high frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) reduced cue-induced craving in patients with methamphetamine dependence. However, the neuroplastic mechanism underlying rTMS intervention in methamphetamine users remains to be elucidated. Sixty participants (40 males) with severe methamphetamine use disorder according to DSM-5 were randomized to receive either intermittent theta burst protocols (iTBS) (short bursts of 50 Hz rTMS repeated at a rate in the theta range (5 Hz), 2-sec on, 8-sec off for 5 min; 900 pulses) or sham rTMS over the DLPFC over four weeks (20 daily sessions). Resting state functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging was acquired before and after rTMS intervention. Participants received drug related cue exposure and rated their craving before and after stimulation. Seed-based functional connectivity analysis was performed to probe rTMS-induced neuroplastic reorganization of brain functional networks. Results showed that twenty daily rTMS sessions decreased craving, increased functional connectivity between left DLPFC and inferior parietal lobule, and decreased functional connectivity between insula and inferior parietal lobule, medial temporal lobe and precuneus. Moreover, the increase of functional connectivity between DLPFC and inferior parietal lobule correlated with craving reduction. This study suggests that neuroplastic changes of frontoparietal functional connectivity contributes to craving reduction, shedding light on the therapeutic effect of rTMS on methamphetamine use disorder. This article is part of the special issue on Stress, Addiction and Plasticity.
Keywords: Craving; Functional connectivity; Methamphetamine; Neuroplasticity; Transcranial magnetic stimulation.
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