Prefrontal Cortical Engagement Through Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation in Schizophrenia

2016-11-30 15:45:40 | BioPortfolio


Cognitive impairments in schizophrenia are the most debilitating aspect of the illness and poorly treated by current medications. This study investigates transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) - a safe, noninvasive weak electrical current delivery to stimulate brain function - as a novel therapeutic for cognition in schizophrenia. Integrating neurostimulation, electrophysiology and neuroimaging, this project aims to study tDCS effects on cognition by verifying therapeutic target engagement, evaluating the tolerability of tDCS sessions, and optimizing treatment parameters.


Cognitive deficits are a strong predictor of functional outcome in schizophrenia, yet poorly remediated by current treatments. Disturbances in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) function underlie core impairments such as in cognitive control and thus represent a critical target for novel therapeutics. Initial studies indicate transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) may be effective in reducing symptoms due to DLPFC dysfunction. While tDCS potentially represents an exciting, novel therapeutic advance, a number of basic questions should be addressed prior to conducting larger-scale clinical trials, including: verifying therapeutic target engagement, optimizing treatment parameters, and evaluating for meaningful clinical effects. Recent studies employing tDCS to enhance prefrontal cortical function in schizophrenia applied stimulating electrodes over the left frontal scalp region, putatively targeting the left DLPFC. However, explicit confirmation of such target engagement is lacking. Further, EEG studies have demonstrated close links of frontal cortical gamma oscillations to cognitive control processes but modulation of this critical physiologic process has not been investigated. Accordingly, the primary aim of this study is to employ multimodal imaging to explicitly test for the assumed DLPFC engagement (fMRI) and modulation of frontal gamma activity (EEG) by tDCS. This study will also investigate the optimization of tDCS application parameters. Analogous to dose-finding investigations in drug studies, we will conduct a parametric investigation of optimal current strengths. Also, while there is extensive evidence for tolerability of single session tDCS, confirmation of feasibility of multisession optimized protocols in schizophrenia is lacking and so will be explicitly evaluated.

In summary, a successful outcome of this study would provide tDCS the sound mechanistic and methodologic basis for more definitive testing in large-scale clinical trials as a highly innovative therapeutic intervention for cognitive impairments in schizophrenia.

Study Design

Allocation: Randomized, Endpoint Classification: Efficacy Study, Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment, Masking: Double Blind (Subject, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor), Primary Purpose: Treatment




transcranial direct current stimulation


UT Health Science Center at Houston
United States


Not yet recruiting


The University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2016-11-30T15:45:40-0500

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Medical and Biotech [MESH] Definitions

The electrical response evoked in a muscle or motor nerve by electrical or magnetic stimulation. Common methods of stimulation are by transcranial electrical and TRANSCRANIAL MAGNETIC STIMULATION. It is often used for monitoring during neurosurgery.

Application of electric current in treatment without the generation of perceptible heat. It includes electric stimulation of nerves or muscles, passage of current into the body, or use of interrupted current of low intensity to raise the threshold of the skin to pain.

Removal of tissue with electrical current delivered via electrodes positioned at the distal end of a catheter. Energy sources are commonly direct current (DC-shock) or alternating current at radiofrequencies (usually 750 kHz). The technique is used most often to ablate the AV junction and/or accessory pathways in order to interrupt AV conduction and produce AV block in the treatment of various tachyarrhythmias.

The resistance to the flow of either alternating or direct electrical current.

Specialized junctions between NEURONS which connect the cytoplasm of one neuron to another allowing direct passage of an ion current.

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