Background The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) plays an important role in the regulation of food intake. Several previous studies demonstrated that a single session of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) of the DLPFC reduces food craving and caloric intake. Objectives We hypothesized that repeated tDCS of the right DLPFC cortex may exert long-term changes in food craving in young, healthy adults and that these changes may differ between normal and overweight subjects. Methods Thirty healthy individuals who reported frequent food cravings without a prior history of eating disorders were initially recruited. Subjects were randomized into an ACTIVE group who received 5 days of real tDCS (20 minutes, anode right-cathode left montage, 2 mA with current density kept at 0.06 mA/cm2, 1 min ramp-up/ramp-down), and a SHAM group, who received one day of real tDCS, on the first day (same parameters), followed by 4 days of sham tDCS. Food craving intensity was examined by Food Craving Questionnaires State and Trait and Food Craving Inventory before, during, (5-days) and one month (30-days) after tDCS. Results Single session of tDCS significantly reduced the intensity of current food craving (FCQ-S). Five days of active tDCS significantly reduced habitual experiences of food craving (FCQ-T), when compared to baseline pre-stimulation levels. Furthermore, both current (FCQ-S) and habitual craving (FCQ-T) were significantly reduced 30 days after active tDCS, while sham tDCS, i.e. a single tDCS session did not have significant effects. Also, active tDCS significantly decreased craving for fast food and sweets, and to a lesser degree for fat, while it did not have significant effects on craving for carbohydrates (FCI). There were no significant differences between individual FCQ-T subscales (craving dimensions) after 5 or 30 days of either sham or active tDCS. Changes in craving were not significantly associated with the initial weight, or with weight changes 30 days after the stimulation in the subjects. Conclusions The results confirm earlier findings that single session of tDCS has immediate effects in reducing food craving. They also show that repeated tDCS over the right DLPFC may increase the duration of its effects, which may be present 30 days after the stimulation. These results support further investigation of the use of tDCS in obesity.
- Brain plasticity
- Brain stimulation
- Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC)
- Transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Neuroscience
- Clinical Neurology