Research Study Abstract

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

  • Published on April 8, 2019

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.


  • Anna Ferrulli MD 1
  • Concetta Macrì RN 1
  • Ileana Terruzzi MS 2
  • Stefano Massarini MS 1
  • Federico Ambrogi PhD 3
  • Michela Adamo MD 1
  • Valentina Milani PhD 4
  • Livio Luzi MD 1,2


  • 1

    Endocrinology and Metabolism Department, IRCCS Policlinico San Donato, San Donato Milanese, Italy

  • 2

    Department of Biomedical Sciences for Health, University of Milan, Milan, Italy

  • 3

    Department of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, University of Milan, Milan, Italy

  • 4

    Scientific Directorate, IRCCS Policlinico San Donato, San Donato Milanese, Italy


Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism