Online effects of transcranial direct current stimulation on prefrontal metabolites in gambling disorder

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Abstract

Gambling disorder is characterized by persistent maladaptive gambling behaviors and is now considered among substance-related and addictive disorders. There is still unmet therapeutic need for these clinical populations, however recent advances indicate that interventions targeting the Glutamatergic/GABAergic system hold promise in reducing symptoms in substance-related and addictive disorders, including gambling disorder. There is some data indicating that transcranial direct current stimulation may hold clinical benefits in substance use disorders and modulate levels of brain metabolites including glutamate and GABA. The goal of the present work was to test whether this non-invasive neurostimulation method modulates key metabolites in gambling disorder. We conducted a sham-controlled, crossover, randomized study, blinded at two levels in order to characterize the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex on neural metabolites levels in sixteen patients with gambling disorder. Metabolite levels were measured with magnetic resonance spectroscopy from the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the right striatum during active and sham stimulation. Active as compared to sham stimulation elevated prefrontal GABA levels. There were no significant changes between stimulation conditions in prefrontal glutamate + glutamine and N-acetyl Aspartate, or in striatal metabolite levels. Results also indicated positive correlations between metabolite levels during active, but not sham, stimulation and levels of risk taking, impulsivity and craving. Our findings suggest that transcranial direct current stimulation can modulate GABA levels in patients with gambling disorder which may represent an interesting future therapeutic avenue.

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