Working... Menu

Effect of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to the Frontoparietal Attention Network on Anxiety Potentiated Startle

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Know the risks and potential benefits of clinical studies and talk to your health care provider before participating. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT03027414
Recruitment Status : Recruiting
First Posted : January 23, 2017
Last Update Posted : January 7, 2019
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC) ( National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) )

Brief Summary:


Researchers want to better understand brain processes related to fear and anxiety. They want to find out if transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a type of brain stimulation, can reduce anxiety.


To see how TMS affects fear and anxiety through memory and attention tasks.


Healthy people ages 18-50 who are right-handed


Participants will be screened through another protocol.

Participants in the pilot study will have 1 visit. This includes:

Urine tests

Questionnaires about mood and thinking

Shock and startle workup: Electrodes are taped to the wrists or fingers. Participants will be shocked to find out what level of shock is uncomfortable but tolerable. They will hear loud, sudden noises through headphones.

TMS: A coil is held on the scalp. A magnetic field stimulates the brain. Sometimes they might receive fake TMS. This feels the same as real TMS. They will perform simple tasks. Participants in the main study will have 2 visits within 2 weeks.

The first visit includes:

Urine tests

Questionnaires about mood and thinking

MRI: Participants lie on a table that slides into a scanner. They will be in the scanner about 1 hour. A computer screen in the scanner will tell them to perform simple tasks.

The second visit includes:

Shock and startle workup


Condition or disease
Healthy Volunteers

Detailed Description:

Objective: To determine the effect of non-invasive brain stimulation on anxiety and anxiety-cognition interactions in healthy subjects. Toward this aim we will test the effect of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) on two outcome measures: 1) Fear and anxiety during the threat of predictable and unpredictable shock (NPU threat test), and 2) Working memory (WM) related anxiety downregulation while performing the Sternberg WM task under threat of shock.

Study population: The study population will consist of up to 184 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18-50.

Design: This study will consists of two (sub-studies 1 and 2) or three (sub-study 3) outpatient visits (1 MRI, 1 or 2 TMS visits [2 for sub-study 3]). In this protocol we will explore the effect of TMS in three sub-studies in the TMS study visit. The sub-studies will contain either the NPU or the Sternberg task during the TMS visits. The first visit (MRI) will consist of the same procedures for all sub-studies. Each subject will be assigned to only one of the sub-studies.

Sternberg Task: Expose subjects to active or sham TMS to a region of the frontoparietal attention network during the Sternberg WM task. Subjects will have to maintain a series of letters in WM for a brief interval during blocks of safety and threat of shock.

NPU Task: Expose subjects to active or sham TMS to a region of the frontoparietal attention network during the NPU threat test. Subjects will be exposed to blocks in which they are either 1) safe from shock (neutral), 2) at risk of shock delivered only during a cue (predictable), or 3) at risk of shock presented randomly (unpredictable).

Outcome measures: In both studies the primary outcome measure will be anxietypotentiated startle (APS), which is the increase in startle magnitude during periods of threat compared to periods of safety. We expect active, but not sham TMS to increase activity in the dlPFC, and therefore reduce APS in both studies

Layout table for study information
Study Type : Observational
Estimated Enrollment : 184 participants
Observational Model: Case-Only
Time Perspective: Prospective
Official Title: The Effect of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to the Frontoparietal Attention Network on Anxiety Potentiated Startle
Study Start Date : January 12, 2017
Estimated Primary Completion Date : November 30, 2025
Estimated Study Completion Date : November 30, 2025

Resource links provided by the National Library of Medicine

MedlinePlus related topics: Anxiety

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. The primary objective of this study is to determine whether strengthening activity in the dlPFC with TMS will reduce anxiety either alone (during NPU) or during a low load cognitive task(Sternberg WM). [ Time Frame: 3 hours ]

Information from the National Library of Medicine

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided below. For general information, Learn About Clinical Studies.

Layout table for eligibility information
Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 50 Years   (Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes
  • Ages 18-50
  • Subjects able to give their consent
  • Right handed


  • Non-English speaking individual
  • Any significant medical or neurological problems (e.g. cardiovascular illness, respiratory illness, neurological illness, seizure, etc.)
  • Current or past Axis I psychiatric disorder(s) as identified with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV, non-patient edition (SCID-np)
  • Active or history of active suicidal ideation.
  • Evidence of a first-degree relative with history of psychosis or bipolar disorder; specifically, participant will know diagnosis or treatment in order to confirm presence of disorder.
  • Alcohol/drug problems in the past year or lifetime alcohol or drug dependence according to the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV.
  • Current use of medications that act on histamine (i.e. diphenhydramine), dopamine (methylphenidate), norepinephrine (buproprion), serotonin (sertraline), or acetylcholine (amitryptiline) receptors. Subjects will be excluded on this basis if they either 1) take these medications on a chronic basis, or 2) if they have taken the drug within 5 half-lives of the drug metabolism, determined by the medical professional at the time of screening.
  • History of seizure (childhood febrile seizures are acceptable and these subjects may be included in the study),
  • History of epilepsy in self or first degree relatives, stroke, brain surgery, head injury, cranial metal implants, known structural brain lesion.
  • Increased risk of seizure for any reason, including prior diagnosis of increased intracranial pressure (such as after large infarctions or trauma), or currently taking medication that lowers the seizure threshold (table below).
  • Pregnancy, or positive pregnancy test.
  • Neurological syndrome of the arm (e.g., carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, etc.)
  • Positive urine toxicology screen during the screening visit.
  • IQ <80
  • Employee or staff of NIMH or are an immediate family member of a NIMH employee, staff, or NIMH contractors.
  • Allergy to lidocaine or topical anesthetics (participants in sub-study 3 only).
  • Any medical condition that increases risk for fMRI or TMS:

    • Any metal in their body which would make having an MRI scan unsafe, such as pacemakers, stimulators, pumps, aneurysm clips, metallic prostheses, artificial heart valves, cochlear implants or shrapnel fragments, or if you were a welder or metal worker, since you may small metal fragments in the eye.
    • Participants who are uncomfortable in small closed spaces (have claustrophobia) and would feel uncomfortable in the MRI machine
    • Patients who have difficulty lying flat on their back for up to 60 min in the scanner
    • History of hearing loss

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT03027414

Layout table for location contacts
Contact: Deborah Roberts, Ph.D. (301) 594-0642

Layout table for location information
United States, Maryland
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center Recruiting
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Contact: For more information at the NIH Clinical Center contact Office of Patient Recruitment (OPR)    800-411-1222 ext TTY8664111010   
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Layout table for investigator information
Principal Investigator: Christian Grillon, Ph.D. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Additional Information:
Layout table for additonal information
Responsible Party: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Identifier: NCT03027414     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 170042
First Posted: January 23, 2017    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: January 7, 2019
Last Verified: December 20, 2018

Layout table for additional information
Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Drug Product: No
Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Device Product: No

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC) ( National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) ):
Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Working Memory