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Papers of the Week

Papers: 25 May 2024 - 31 May 2024

2024 May 30

Mol Psychiatry


Effects and safety of transcranial direct current stimulation on multiple health outcomes: an umbrella review of randomized clinical trials.


Kang J, Lee H, Yu S, Lee M, Kim HJ, Kwon R, Kim S, Fond G, Boyer L, Rahmati M, Koyanagi A, Smith L, Nehs CJ, Kim MS, Sánchez GFL, Dragioti E, Kim T, Yon DK


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), which delivers a direct current to the brain, emerged as a non-invasive potential therapeutic in treating a range of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders. However, a comprehensive quantitative evidence synthesis on the effects of tDCS on a broad range of mental illnesses is lacking. Here, we systematically assess the certainty of the effects and safety of tDCS on several health outcomes using an umbrella review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). The methodological quality of each included original meta-analysis was assessed by the A Measurement Tool for Assessing Systematic Reviews 2 (AMSTAR2), and the certainty of the evidence for each effect was evaluated with Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE). We followed an a priori protocol (PROSPERO CRD42023458700). We identified 15 meta-analyses of RCTs (AMSTAR 2; high 3, moderate 3, and low 9) that included 282 original articles, covering 22 unique health endpoints across 22 countries and six continents. From meta-analyses of RCTs supported by very low to high certainty of evidence, it was found that tDCS improved symptoms related to post-stroke, including post-stroke depression scale score (equivalent standardized mean difference [eSMD], 1.61 [95% confidence level, 0.72-2.50]; GRADE=moderate), activities of daily living independence (7.04 [3.41-10.67]; GRADE=high), motor recovery of upper and lower extremity (upper extremity: 0.15 [0.06-0.24], GRADE=high; lower extremity: 0.10 [0.03-0.16], GRADE=high), swallowing performance (GRADE=low), and spasticity (GRADE=moderate). In addition, tDCS had treatment effects on symptoms of several neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (0.81 [0.44-1.18]; GRADE=high), pain in fibromyalgia (GRADE=low), disease of consciousness (GRADE=low), insight score (GRADE=moderate) and working memory (0.34 [0.01-0.67]; GRADE=high) in schizophrenia, migraine-related pain (-1.52 [-2.91 to -0.13]; GRADE=high), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (reduction in overall symptom severity: 0.24 [0.04-0.45], GRADE=low; reduction in inattention: 0.56 [0.02-1.11], GRADE=low; reduction in impulsivity: 0.28 [0.04-0.51], GRADE=low), depression (GRADE=low), cerebellar ataxia (GRADE=low), and pain (GRADE=very low). Importantly, tDCS induced an increased number of reported cases of treatment-emergent mania or hypomania (0.88 [0.62-1.13]; GRADE=moderate). We found varied levels of evidence for the effects of tDCS with multiple neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions, from very low to high certainty of evidence. tDCS was effective for people with stroke, obsessive-compulsive disorder, fibromyalgia, disease of consciousness, schizophrenia, migraine, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression, cerebellar ataxia, and pain. Therefore, these findings suggest the benefit of tDCS for several neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders; however, further studies are needed to understand the underlying mechanism and optimize its therapeutic potential.