Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) of brain can modulate cortical neurotransmission, a novel paradigm of repetitive stimulation termed continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) produces a pronounced and prolonged suppression of motor cortex excitability. The aim of this preliminary study was to investigate whether cTBS of motor cortex could have any beneficial effect in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Twenty patients with definite ALS were randomly allocated to blinded active or placebo stimulation. Repetitive stimulation of the motor cortex was performed for five consecutive days every month for six consecutive months. The primary outcome was the rate of decline as evaluated with the ALS functional rating scale. The treatment was well tolerated by the patients. Fifteen patients (seven active and eight sham) completed the study and were included in the 6-months analysis. Both active and sham patients deteriorated during treatment, however, active patients showed a modest but significant slowing of the deterioration rate. Though we cannot be sure whether the effects observed can be attributed to cTBS, because of the restricted number of patients studied, further investigation on a larger group of ALS patients is warranted. The results of the pilot study might open up a new therapeutic perspective in ALS based on neuromodulation.
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