Can electrical brain stimulation treat symptoms of schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental disorder characterized by symptoms divided into two categories: positive symptoms– which correspond with psychotic behaviors present in schizophrenic patients not seen in healthy people– and negative symptoms– referring to missing characteristics of emotion and behavior normally seen in healthy people. Positive symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, cognitive disorders and movement disorders; while negative symptoms include flat affect, reduced feelings of pleasure and reduced capacity to speak.

A recent study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research suggests transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) may be effective in treating and reducing positive symptoms associated with schizophrenia. Additionally, researchers were also able to correlate the reduction of positive symptoms to the oxy-hemoglobin concentration in the brain obtained with near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS).

The study involved 26 patients who underwent tDCS sessions at 2 mA for 20 minutes, 2 times a day for 5 consecutive days. The anode was placed over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), while the cathode was positioned over the right supraorbital region. Patients were evaluated one month after their last tDCS session.

Overall this study suggests tDCS is effective in helping reduce positive symptoms of schizophrenia. The study also found a possible biomarker (oxy-hemoglobin concentration) to be used in future tDCS studies for evaluating the efficacy of protocols aimed at treating the symptoms of schizophrenia.

It is also important to note that this study did not use a sham control for their subjects; more research is needed with a control group in order for the results to be more conclusive.

Click here for the study:!


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