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J Neurotrauma. 2015 Jan 1;32(1):38-44. doi: 10.1089/neu.2014.3449.

Noninvasive brain stimulation for persistent postconcussion symptoms in mild traumatic brain injury.

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1 Department of Psychology, McGill University Health Center (MUHC), Department of Neurology/Neurosurgery and Department of Psychology, McGill University, and Mental Illness and Addiction Axis, Research Institute of the MUHC, McGill University , Montreal, Quebec, Canada .


Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is typically followed by various postconcussive symptoms (PCS), including headache, depression, and cognitive deficits. In 15-25% of cases, PCS persists beyond the usual 3-month recovery period, interfering with activities of daily living and responding poorly to pharmacotherapy. We tested the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) for alleviating PCS. Fifteen eligible patients with mTBI and PCS > 3 months postinjury consented to 20 sessions of rTMS (20 × 5-sec trains; 10 Hz at 110% threshold), with clinical and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) assessments before and after intervention and clinical assessment at 3-month follow-up. Primary outcomes were tolerability, safety, and efficacy, as measured with the PCS Scale. Secondary outcomes included the Cognitive Symptoms Questionnaire, neuropsychological test performance, and working memory task-associated activity as assessed with fMRI. Twelve patients completed all sessions. Three withdrew because of worsening symptoms or for an unrelated event. Stimulation intensity was increased gradually across sessions, and all subjects tolerated the protocol by the sixth session. Commonly reported side effects among completers were increased headache (n = 3) and greater sleep disturbance (n = 3). Participants also reported positive outcomes such as less sleep disturbance (n = 3), and better mental focus (n = 3). On average, PCS scores declined by 14.6 points (p = 0.009) and fMRI task-related activation peaks in the DLPFC increased after rTMS. rTMS is safe, tolerated by most patients with mTBI, and associated with both a reduction in severity of PCS and an increase in task-related activations in DLPFC. Assessment of this intervention in a randomized, control trial is warranted.


brain trauma; concussion; fMRI; head injury; rTMS

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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