Developing Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) as a Treatment Tool for Cocaine Use Disorder: a Series of Six Translational Studies

Colleen A. Hanlon, Tonisha Kearney-Ramos, Logan T. Dowdle, Sarah Hamilton, William DeVries, Oliver Mithoefer, Christopher Austelle, Daniel H. Lench, Brittany Correia, Melanie Canterberry, Joshua P. Smith, Kathleen T. Brady, Mark S. George

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Purpose of the Review: Cocaine dependence is a chronic and relapsing disorder which is particularly resistant to behavioral or pharmacologic treatment, and likely involves multiple dysfunctional frontal-striatal circuits. Through advances in preclinical research in the last decade, we now have an unprecedented understanding of the neural control of drug-taking behavior. In both rodent models and human clinical neuroimaging studies, it is apparent that medial frontal-striatal limbic circuits regulate drug cue-triggered behavior. While non-human preclinical studies can use invasive stimulation techniques to inhibit drug cue-evoked behavior, in human clinical neuroscience, we are pursuing non-invasive theta burst stimulation (TBS) as a novel therapeutic tool to inhibit drug cue-associated behavior. Recent Findings: Our laboratory and others have spent the last 7 years systematically and empirically developing a non-invasive, neural circuit-based intervention for cocaine use disorder. Utilizing a multimodal approach of functional brain imaging and brain stimulation, we have attempted to design and optimize a repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment protocol for cocaine use disorder. This manuscript will briefly review the data largely from our own lab that motivated our selection of candidate neural circuits, and then summarize the results of six studies, culminating in the first double-blinded, sham-controlled clinical trial of TMS as a treatment adjuvant for treatment-engaged cocaine users (10 sessions, medial prefrontal cortex, 110% resting motor threshold, continuous theta burst stimulation, 3600 pulses/session). Summary: The intent of this review is to highlight one example of a systematic path for TMS treatment development in patients. This path is not necessarily optimal, exclusive, or appropriate for every neurologic or psychiatric disease. Rather, it is one example of a reasoned, empirically derived pathway which we hope will serve as scaffolding for future investigators seeking to develop TMS treatment protocols.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-352
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent Behavioral Neuroscience Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by several grants from the National Institute of Drug Abuse and National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism: K01 DA027756 (Hanlon), R01DA0036617 (Hanlon), R21 DA041610 (Hanlon), T32DA007288 (McGinty), P50 DA015369 (Kalivas), and P50 AA010761 (Becker). Additional assistance was given by the South Carolina Translational Research Institute grant from the National Institute of Health (UL1 TR000062).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer International Publishing AG.


  • Addiction
  • Cocaine
  • Functional MRI
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation


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