Weight loss induced by deep transcranial magnetic stimulation in obesity: A randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled study

Anna Ferrulli, Concetta Macrì, Ileana Terruzzi, Stefano Massarini, Federico Ambrogi, Michela Adamo, Valentina Milani, Livio Luzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim: To test the hypothesis that deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS) reduces food craving and causes weight loss via neuromodulation. Materials and methods: This pilot study was designed as a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled study. A total of 33 obese people (nine men, 24 women, mean age 48.1 ± 10.6 years, body mass index [BMI] 36.9 ± 4.7 kg/m2) were randomized and completed the study: 13 participants underwent a 5-week treatment with high-frequency (HF) dTMS (18 Hz; HF group), 10 were treated with low-frequency (LF) dTMS (1 Hz; LF group), and 10 were sham-treated (sham group). Food craving, and metabolic and neuro-endocrine variables were evaluated at baseline, after the 5-week treatment, and at follow-up visits (1 month, 6 months, 1 year after the end of treatment). Results: The mixed-model analysis for repeated measures showed a significant interaction of time and groups for body weight (P = 0.001) and BMI (P = 0.001), with a significant body weight (−7.83 ± 2.28 kg; P = 0.0009) and BMI (−2.83 ± 0.83, P = 0.0009) decrease in the HF versus the sham group. A decreasing trend in food craving in the HF versus the LF and sham groups (P = 0.073) was observed. A significant improvement of metabolic and physical activity variables was found (P < 0.05) in the HF group. Conclusions: We demonstrated the safety and efficacy of dTMS, in addition to physical exercise and a hypocaloric diet, in reducing body weight for up to 1 year in obese people. We hypothesize that a possible mechanism of HF dTMS treatment is modulation of the dopaminergic pathway and stimulation of physical activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1849-1860
Number of pages12
JournalDiabetes, Obesity and Metabolism
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019


  • appetite control
  • obesity therapy
  • randomised trial
  • weight control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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