Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for patients with functional paralysis: a randomized controlled study

Eur J Neurol. 2022 May;29(5):1293-1302. doi: 10.1111/ene.15264. Epub 2022 Feb 14.


Background and purpose: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has been proposed to treat functional neurological disorders. Here, the aim was to assess the efficacy of rTMS to treat functional paralysis in a controlled randomized trial.

Methods: Patients received two sessions of active or sham 0.25 Hz rTMS (60 stimuli each), with a 1-day interval, applied over the motor cortex contralateral to the paralysis. The primary outcome was the number of patients with an increase in motor score between baseline and after the second rTMS session, rated by two investigators blinded to the treatment allocation. Secondary outcomes were changes in global and fine motor scores between groups after rTMS, and the occurrence of adverse events.

Results: Sixty-two patients (46 female; mean [SD] age, 35.2 [13.9] years) were enrolled and randomized. Thirteen out of 32 (41%) and 11/30 (37%) patients had increased motor strength after active or sham rTMS, respectively (p = 0.80). Changes in both global and fine motor scores after rTMS relative to baseline were also not significantly different between treatment groups (median difference in the global motor score 0.62 [0.83] and 0.37 [0.61], and in the fine motor scores 0.12 [0.18] and 0.08 [0.11], in active and sham rTMS groups, respectively; p = 0.14). Six serious adverse events, consisting of three cephalalgia in the active group and two cephalalgia and one asthenia in the sham group, were observed.

Conclusions: Two sessions of sham or active low frequency rTMS were effective to improve functional paralysis, suggesting a placebo effect of this non-invasive brain stimulation technique.

Keywords: clinical trials; controlled; functional motor signs; randomized; transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Headache / etiology
  • Humans
  • Motor Cortex*
  • Paralysis / etiology
  • Paralysis / therapy
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation* / adverse effects
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation* / methods
  • Treatment Outcome