Non-invasive brain stimulation targets and approaches to modulate gambling-related decisions: A systematic review

Mauro Pettorruso, Andrea Miuli*, Chiara Di Natale, Chiara Montemitro, Francesca Zoratto, Luisa De Risio, Giacomo d'Andrea, Pinhas N. Dannon, Giovanni Martinotti, Massimo di Giannantonio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: Despite intense neuroscience research on the neurobiological underpinnings of Gambling Disorder (GD) and gambling-related decision-making, effective treatments targeting these dysfunctions are still lacking. Non Invasive Brain Stimulation (NIBS) techniques, such as transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), selectively modulate activity of brain circuits and have the potential to reverse alterations sustaining GD symptoms. Therefore, the aim of this systematic review was to determine the impact of different NIBS interventions on gambling-related decision processes. Methods: We conducted a comprehensive and translational search in three online databases (MEDLINE via PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science), in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines. We included studies applying neuromodulation (TMS, tDCS) techniques in GD patients or assessing gambling-related decision-making in healthy subjects. In addition, we explored the potential impact of NIBS in drug-induced GD (e.g., Parkinson's Disease). Results: Twenty-seven studies have been included. We summarized results to detect the impact of different targets and stimulation/inhibition protocols in terms of gambling-related decision-making. The majority of both tDCS and TMS studies targeted the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Although heterogeneous in protocols and parameters, results from tDCS and TMS studies converge in indicating that the stimulation (instead of inhibition) of prefrontal regions could be beneficial to contrast dysfunctional gambling-related decision processes. Conclusion: NIBS interventions show promise to be further tested in controlled clinical settings for the treatment of behavioral addictions. Further studies are also necessary to investigate connectivity changes and laterality issues (unilateral versus bilateral; left versus right) of NIBS application in GD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106657
JournalAddictive Behaviors
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Behavioral addiction
  • Gambling disorder
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)
  • Treatment


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