Smoking is a major risk factor for leading causes of premature mortality. Once established it is hard to quit smoking habits and a recent meta-analysis shows that abstinence rates at 6-months post-quit are very low, ranging from 19% to 36.5%. A new and promising treatment method is transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the brain. Preliminary studies show that TMS of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) reduces nicotine craving and cigarette consumption in heavy nicotine users.
The present study will explore the effects of TMS of the DLPFC of smokers on neural activity in the drug motivational systems and aim at identifying neural networks involved in TMS-induced craving reduction.
Participants fulfilling ICD-10 criteria for tobacco dependence (F17.2) will be recruited. Following repetitive TMS (rTMS) of the DLPFC brain activity will be measured by means of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
The present study will gain deeper insight into the mechanisms of TMS for the treatment of tobacco dependence, as well as of addiction in general. This represents a decisive step in preparing the ground for more effective therapeutic interventions than currently available, in particular for individuals seeking but failing to attain abstinence.