Durham, North Carolina 27710


Psychological treatments are effective, but take a long time and can be burdensome. Therefore, avenues to optimize behavioral treatments are needed. Despite important advancements, neuroscience has had a limited effect on psychotherapy development. Therefore, one paradigm shift would be to develop neuroscience informed behavioral treatments. The investigators identified from the literature a problem that affects several mental disorders (emotion dysregulation) and a neural circuit that underlies this important concern. They found that this circuit is dysfunctional in those with psychopathology but can be changed with treatment. The goal is in one session to train this brain network to operate more efficiently and to test the short and long term effects of this intervention. The investigators plan to engage this brain network using a traditional psychotherapy strategy (cognitive restructuring) and to enhance learning using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), a neuromodulation technique through which magnetic stimulation enhances the electrical activity in brain areas close to the scalp. The study team proposes to include 105 participants divided into 3 groups. All participants will be trained in emotion regulation by first being asked to remember an event where they experienced a negative emotion and then being instructed either to think differently about the event, or to wait. Participants will simultaneously undergo either real (left or right side of brain) or sham rTMS. The investigators will measure their regulation in the lab and during a-week long naturalistic assessment. Participants will return to rate feasibility, acceptability, and to provide feedback. If successful, this proof of concept study can open new frontiers for neuroscience informed treatment development. 40 of the 105 participants will be called back for a brain imaging session where the ideal target for neurostimulation is identified with the use of an emotion regulation paradigm.

Study summary:

Despite significant advancements in psychiatric research, the majority of adults with mental health disorders do not benefit from current evidence-based treatments, especially if they have difficulties managing negative emotions. One solution to this unmet clinical need is to take a neuroscience-informed approach to treatment development in order to radically change patient care. Despite an explosion of research on the neurobiological underpinnings of emotion, emotion regulation, and psychopathology, there have been few attempts to use such findings to advance behavioral treatments. Neuroscience-informed treatment development could optimize psychotherapy gains and reduce burden on therapists and clients. Therefore, we propose to build a fundamentally novel approach to treating difficulties managing negative emotions (or emotion dysregulation) that builds on the strength of current therapies, but that also accelerates and enhances gains. Adults with several different psychiatric disorders have difficulty managing negative emotions, a problem that has been traced back to impairments in the fronto-limbic brain circuitry. In healthy samples this neural network is activated in response to tasks requiring regulation of emotional arousal and disrupting this circuit leads to psychiatric symptoms. In psychiatric samples, this circuit is underperforming as evidenced by (1) hyperactivity in the amygdala (the brain structure that signals emotional arousal), (2) slow return to baseline after amygdala activation, (3) hypoactivity in frontal regions (responsible for regulation), and (3) insufficient cross-talk between these regions when patients experience negative emotional arousal. Evidence-based cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy and neurostimulation are two different interventions that can remediate function in impaired brain circuits. Both interventions have evidence of success in changing the fronto-limbic network but also need improvement. Therefore, the investigators plan to combine magnetic brain stimulation and cognitive restructuring (an evidence-based behavioral treatment for difficulties managing emotions) in a one-session intervention. The investigators propose to recruit 65 transdiagnostic adults (i.e., who meet criteria for any DSM 5 disorder) who engage in cognitive restructuring with low frequency as measured by an established questionnaire and to randomly assign them to either real or sham repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). All included participants will practice reducing negative emotions (induced with standardized autobiographical stressors) using cognitive restructuring while undergoing high frequency or sham rTMS to the right or left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Standardized, established procedures will be used to teach cognitive restructuring, to generate personalized stressors, to induce negative emotional arousal, and to implement the one session of rTMS. Immediate effects will be evaluated using measures of emotional arousal and regulation during the intervention and for one week afterwards using 8 daily automated mobile phone calls. Long-term effects in emotion regulation, functional and psychiatric impairment will be examined at 1-week and 1-month follow-up interviews. The investigators hypothesize that rTMS will enhance cognitive restructuring by yielding a quicker reduction in emotional arousal when compared to sham TMS, and will lead to more frequent use of the cognitive restructuring in the natural environment. If successful, this study may be the first in a series of investigations using innovative paradigms to optimize treatment for psychiatric disorders and it could lead to the next generation of neuroscience-informed behavioral interventions. An additional 40 participants will be recruited for the study using identical inclusion/exclusion criteria as the main portion of the study, however, if their score on the emotion regulation questionnaire is above the low frequency, a group of participants who meet for medium to high frequency on the scale will be allowed to participate in this arm if the also score high on the difficulties with emotion regulation scale and meet all other inclusion/exclusion criteria as well as can undergo an MRI. Participants in the imaging portion of the study will undergo an MRI before the intervention day. This imaging session will include training in the emotion regulation task to be performed in the scanner, including practice in reappraisal and distraction; a memory cue assessment to rehearse cuing of memories; a mock scan if necessary, MRI safety screening confirmation, structural (Diffusion tensor imaging and anatomical) and functional MRI (fMRI) images will be collected. During the fMRI scan, participants will complete the emotional regulation task where they will be asked to recall an emotional memory from the Emotional Memory selection tasks and then be cued to reappraise, distract or allow negative emotions. At the end of the trials, participants will rate their current emotional state. Participants in the imaging portion of the study will be randomized to sham or left dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex stimulation only. After undergoing the intervention visit, they will then return to complete a second MRI after 1 week where they will reoriented to the emotion regulation task, have structural and functional MRI images collected with the emotion regulation task occurring during the fMRI portion. They will also complete the online questionnaires as the other groups and then will return to the clinic within 30days for the final follow-up visit.


Inclusion Criteria: 1. Has difficulty thinking differently in emotional situations 2. Meets diagnostic criteria for a current DSM-5 depressive, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, somatic, personality, eating, or trauma and stress-related disorders (including in partial remission): major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, specific phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, trichotillomania, excoriation disorder, hoarding disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, other specified, or unspecified obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, adjustment disorders, somatic symptom disorder, conversion disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, personality disorder unspecified, depressive disorder unspecified, anxiety disorder unspecified. 3. Willing and able to participate in the intervention and all required study visits, stay on the same dose of psychiatric medication (if any) throughout the study, not participate in cognitive-behavioral therapy throughout their participation in the study. 4. Has cellphone that can be used during the ambulatory assessment portion of the study. Exclusion Criteria: 1. Current or recent (within the past 6 months) substance dependence disorder(excluding nicotine and caffeine) 2. Current serious medical illness, including migraine headaches. ` 3. Currently on psychotropic medications with dosage unchanged for less than four weeks prior to study entry OR plan to make changes in medication within 2 months after starting the study 4. History of seizure except those therapeutically induced by electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), history of epilepsy in self or first degree relatives, stroke, brain surgery, head injury, cranial metal implants, known structural brain lesion, devices that may be affected by TMS (pacemaker, medication pump, cochlear implant, implanted brain stimulator). 5. Diagnosed with the following conditions: psychotic disorder, any DSM disorder secondary to a general medical condition, or substance-induced, Bipolar I disorder (current or lifetime), life-threatening anorexia or any other disorder requiring immediate hospitalization, high-risk for suicidal behavior, including current suicidal ideation with a method and plan or hospitalization for suicidal behavior within 1yr before the study. 6. Currently engaged or planning to engage in other treatment during the course of the study (including behavior therapy, or other types of individual, family, or group psychotherapy/counseling). 7. Is diagnosed with a clinically defined neurological disorder including, but not limited to: any condition likely to be associated with increased intracranial pressure; space occupying brain lesion; history of stroke, transient ischemic attack within two years; cerebral aneurysm; dementia; Parkinson's disease; Huntington's disease; Multiple sclerosis. 8. Has increased risk of seizure for any reason, including prior diagnosis of increased intracranial pressure (such as after large infarctions or trauma), or currently taking medication that lowers the seizure threshold (e.g Wellbutrin, Adderall, Clozaril). 9. Has any of the following treatment histories: TMS treatment at any point in their lifetime; use of any investigational drug or device within 4 weeks of the screening. 10. Subjects with cochlear implants 11. Women who are pregnant or breast feeding 12. Chronic absence of shelter or impending jail that would make consistent participation in the study difficult 13. Cannot easily come to Duke several times for the study procedures 14. Does not have a mobile phone or is unwilling to use mobile phone for ambulatory assessment 15. Does not speak/understand English enough to benefit from the psychotherapeutic intervention 16. Intellectual disability For imaging arm of the study, participants must also be able to tolerate an MRI, thus must be eligible based on the MRI safety screening form.



Primary Contact:

Principal Investigator
Andrada D Neacsiu, PhD
Duke University

Andrada D Neacsiu, PhD
Phone: 919-684-6714
Email: andrada.neacsiu@duke.edu

Backup Contact:

Email: lisalynn.kelley@duke.edu
Lisalynn Kelley, BA, CCRP
Phone: 919-684-6701

Location Contact:

Durham, North Carolina 27710
United States

Andrada D Neacsiu, PhD
Phone: 919-684-6714
Email: andrada.neacsiu@duke.edu

Site Status: Recruiting

Data Source: ClinicalTrials.gov

Date Processed: January 21, 2020

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