*** Embargoed Until 2 p.m. EST Nov. 30, 2016 ***


FINDINGSA study led by researchers from UCLA suggests that a form of non-invasive brain stimulation may help people manage their drive for rewards, like gambling, sex, drinking alcohol or overeating. BACKGROUNDResearchers wanted to see if brain stimulation could be used to alter a person's response to a primary reward. Primary rewards are those key to survival, such as food, sex and the nurturing of children. Problems with the brain's reward circuitry are core deficits in many disorders, such as depression and addiction. METHODResearchers recruited a sample of 20 very sexually active men and women from the community. Volunteers were administered both intermittent and continuous forms of brain stimulation in which a magnetic field generator, or “coil,” is used to stimulate small regions of the brain. After each stimulation, participants completed a series of tasks while their brain response was measured. In one task, they attempted to "win" seconds of sexual stimulation, a stand-in for the primary reward of sex. The EEG showed volunteers' desire for this reward was increased, or decreased, depending on the type of brain stimulation they received beforehand. Continuous theta burst stimulation increased the volunteers' anticipation of sexual stimulation, and the intermittent theta burst stimulation decreased the volunteers' anticipation. IMPACTThe study shows how non-invasive brain stimulation might be used as an intervention in sexual desire difficulties, to improve sexual decision-making, or to curb impulsivity in problem behaviors. AUTHORSThe study's authors are Marco Iacoboni, Choi Deblieck and Allan Wu of UCLA; Greg J. Siegle of University of Pittsburgh; and Nicole Prause, formerly of UCLA. JOURNALThe study appears Nov. 30, 2016, in the online, peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.