University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Article number213
Pages (from-to)213
Number of pages16
JournalBMC Pilot and Feasibility Studies
Early online date6 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2021


BACKGROUND: Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a neuropsychiatric disorder which often proves refractory to current treatment approaches. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a noninvasive form of neurostimulation, with potential for development as a self-administered intervention, has shown potential as a safe and efficacious treatment for OCD in a small number of trials. The two most promising stimulation sites are located above the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and the supplementary motor area (SMA).

METHODS: The aim of this feasibility study is to inform the development of a definitive trial, focussing on the acceptability, safety of the intervention, feasibility of recruitment, adherence and tolerability to tDCS and study assessments and the size of the treatment effect. To this end, we will deliver a double-blind, sham-controlled, crossover randomised multicentre study in 25 adults with OCD. Each participant will receive three courses of tDCS (SMA, OFC and sham), randomly allocated and given in counterbalanced order. Each course comprises four 20-min stimulations, delivered over two consecutive days, separated by at least 4 weeks' washout period. We will collect information about recruitment, study conduct and tDCS delivery. Blinded raters will assess clinical outcomes before, during and up to 4 weeks after stimulation using validated scales. We will include relevant objective neurocognitive tasks, testing cognitive flexibility, motor disinhibition, cooperation and habit learning.

DISCUSSION: We will analyse the magnitude of the effect of the interventions on OCD symptoms alongside the standard deviation of the outcome measure, to estimate effect size and determine the optimal stimulation target. We will also measure the duration of the effect of stimulation, to provide information on spacing treatments efficiently. We will evaluate the usefulness and limitations of specific neurocognitive tests to determine a definitive test battery. Additionally, qualitative data will be collected from participants to better understand their experience of taking part in a tDCS intervention, as well as the impact on their overall quality of life. These clinical outcomes will enable the project team to further refine the methodology to ensure optimal efficiency in terms of both delivering and assessing the treatment in a full-scale trial.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN17937049 . (date applied 08/07/2019). Recruitment (ongoing) began 23rd July 2019 and is anticipated to complete 30th April 2021.


© The Author(s) 2021. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License,

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