Reduced Intra-individual Reaction Time Variability During a Go-NoGo Task in Detoxified Alcohol-Dependent Patients After One Right-Sided Dorsolateral Prefrontal HF-rTMS Session

  1. S.C. Herremans1,*,
  2. M.-A. Vanderhasselt2,
  3. R. De Raedt2 and
  4. C. Baeken1,3
  1. 1Department of Psychiatry, UZ Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
  2. 2Department of Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  3. 3Department of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  1. *Corresponding author: Psychiatric Department, University Hospital, UZ Brussel, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (V.U.B.), Laarbeeklaan 101, 1090 Brussels, Belgium. Tel.: +32-24777724; Fax: +32-24777824; E-mail: sarah.herremans{at}
  • Received December 19, 2012.
  • Revision requested February 4, 2013.
  • Revision received February 27, 2013.
  • Accepted May 4, 2013.

Aims: As alcohol dependency is characterized by severe executive function deficits, we examined the influence of high-frequency (HF) repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) applied to the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) on executive functioning in recently detoxified alcohol-dependent patients. Methods: In this randomized, single blind, sham (placebo)-controlled, crossover study, we included 50 detoxified alcohol-dependent patients. We examined the effect of a single right DLPFC HF-rTMS session on commission errors, mean reaction times (RTs) and intra-individual reaction time variability (IIRTV) during a Go–NoGo task (50% Go/50% NoGo condition) in 29 alcohol-dependent patients. Patients completed this cognitive task immediately before and immediately after the stimulation session. In order to avoid carry-over effects between stimulation sessions, a 1-week inter-session interval was respected. Because rTMS treatment has been shown to affect subjective craving, all patients were also assessed with the Obsessive Compulsive Drinking Scale (OCDS). Results: After both stimulation conditions, we observed a significant decrease of commission errors, without differences between active and sham HF-rTMS stimulation. No significant difference was observed between active and sham stimulation on mean RT. However, only active stimulation resulted in a significant decrease in IIRTV. No effects of stimulation were found for the craving measurements. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that in recently detoxified alcohol-dependent patients, one right-sided HF-rTMS session stabilizes cognitive performance during executive control tasks, implying that active stimulation reduces patients' proneness to attentional lapses.