Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

May 2013


Recent studies show that acute neuromodulation of the prefrontal cortex with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can decrease food craving, attentional bias to food, and actual food intake. These data suggest potential clinical applications for tDCS in the field of obesity. However, optimal stimulation parameters in obese individuals are uncertain. One fundamental concern is whether a thick, low-conductivity layer of subcutaneous fat around the head can affect current density distribution and require dose adjustments during tDCS administration. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of head fat on the distribution of current during tDCS and evaluate whether dosing standards for tDCS developed for adult individuals in general are adequate for the obese population. We used MRI-derived high-resolution computational models that delineated fat layers in five human heads from subjects with body mass index (BMI) ranging from “normal-lean” to “super-obese” (20.9 to 53.5 kg/m2). Data derived from these simulations suggest that head fat influences tDCS current density across the brain, but its relative contribution is small when other components of head anatomy are added. Current density variability between subjects does not appear to have a direct and/or simple link to BMI. These results indicate that guidelines for the use of tDCS can be extrapolated to obese subjects without sacrificing efficacy and/or treatment safety; the recommended standard parameters can lead to the delivery of adequate current flow to induce neuromodulation of brain activity in the obese population.



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