Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation to Reduce Violence

A Systematic Review of the Effectiveness of Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Techniques to Reduce Violence Proneness by Interfering in Anger and Irritability.

The field of neurocriminology has proposed several treatments (e.g., pharmacological, brain surgery, androgen-deprivation therapy, neurofeedback) to reduce violence proneness, but unfortunately, their effectiveness has been limited due to their side-effects. Therefore, it is necessary to explore alternative techniques to improve patients’ behavioural regulation with minimal undesirable effects. In this regard, non-invasive brain stimulation techniques, which are based on applying changing magnetic fields or electric currents to interfere with cortical excitability, have revealed their usefulness in alleviating the symptomatology of several mental disorders. However, to our knowledge, there are no reviews that assess whether these techniques are useful for reducing violence proneness. Therefore, we conducted a systematic review following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) criteria using the following databases: PsycINFO, PubMed, Dialnet, Psicodoc, Web of Knowledge, and the Cochrane Library. We initially identified 3746 entries, and eventually included 56 publications. Most of the studies were unanimous in concluding that the application of these techniques over the prefrontal cortex (PFC) was not sufficient to promote anger and irritability reductions in euthymic individuals of both genders. Nevertheless, the application of non-invasive brain stimulation techniques, especially transcranial direct current stimulation, over the right PFC seemed to reduce violent reactions in these individuals by interfering with the interpretation of the unfavourable situations (e.g., threating signals) or inner states that evoked anger. In antisocial and pathological populations, the conclusions were provided by a few pilot studies with important methodological weaknesses. The main conclusion of these studies was that bilateral stimulation of the PFC satisfactorily reduced anger and irritability only in inmates, patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), people who suffered a closed-head injury, and agitated patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, combining these techniques with risperidone considerably reduced aggressiveness in these patients. Therefore, it is necessary to be cautious about the benefits of these techniques to control anger, due the methodological weaknesses of these studies. Nonetheless, they offer valuable opportunities to prevent violence by designing new treatments combining brain stimulation with current strategies, such as psychotherapy and psychopharmacology, in order to promote lasting changes.

PMID: 32213818 [PubMed]

J Clin Med. 2020 Mar 24;9(3):

Authors: Romero-Martínez Á, Bressanutti S, Moya-Albiol L




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