Transcranial direct current stimulation to modulate brain reactivity to food cues in overweight and obese adults: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial with fMRI (NeuroStim-Obesity)

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Abstract

Background: With increasing obese populations worldwide, developing interventions to modulate food-related brain processes and functions is particularly important. Evidence suggests that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) may modulate the reward–control balance towards facilitation of cognitive control and possible suppression of reward-related mechanisms that drive food cue-induced craving. This protocol describes a clinical trial that investigates the neurocognitive mechanisms of action for tDCS to modulate food cue-reactivity and cravings in people with obesity. Method: The NeuroStim-Obesity trial is a prospective, randomized, sham-controlled, double-blind single-session tDCS trial targeting food craving in those with obesity or overweighed. Once randomized, 64 adults with obesity or overweighed complete one session in which they receive either active or sham tDCS over the DLPFC (anode F4 and cathode F3, 2 mA intensity for 20 min). The primary outcome is change in neural response to the food cue-reactivity task in the ventral striatum after a single-session bilateral tDCS compared to sham stimulation. Secondary outcomes include changes in food craving evaluated by the Food Craving Questionnaire-State (FCQ-S). We will also explore the predictive role of brain structure and functional networks assessed by structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) during both task performance and the resting-state that are acquired pre- and post-intervention to predict response to tDCS. Discussion: The results will provide novel insight into neuroscience for the efficacy of tDCS and will advance the field towards precision medicine for obesity. Exploratory results will examine the potential predictive biomarkers for tDCS response and eventually provide personalized intervention for the treatment of obesity. Trial registration: Iranian Registry of Clinical Trials (IRCT) IRCT20121020011172N4. Retrospectively registered on 4 June 2020

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Ghobadi-Azbari, P., Malmir, N., Vartanian, M., Mahdavifar-Khayati, R., Robatmili, S., Hadian, V., … Ekhtiari, H. (2022). Transcranial direct current stimulation to modulate brain reactivity to food cues in overweight and obese adults: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial with fMRI (NeuroStim-Obesity). Trials, 23(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13063-022-06234-8

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