for females ages 18-45 (full criteria)
at San Diego, California
study started
completion around
Principal Investigator
by Guido Frank, MD
Headshot of Guido Frank
Guido Frank



Anorexia nervosa is a severe psychiatric disorder associated with food avoidance and body image distortion, that is feeling fat despite being underweight. It is the third most common chronic illness among adolescent females, and its mortality reaches its peak between the ages 16 and 29 years old. There are very few treatments for anorexia nervosa and especially no biological treatments have been approved. Recent brain imaging research has repeatedly implicated brain circuits that include the insula in the disorder. The insula is a brain region important in taste processing as well as in the integration of body perception and has strong connections to the brain reward system. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a relatively new methodology that has been shown to alter neurocircuitry and alleviate depression. Here, the study goal is to develop TMS as a methodology to change altered neurocircuitry in anorexia nervosa and alleviate disorder specific behaviors.

Official Title

Harnessing Neurostimulation to Improve Treatment Outcome in Anorexia Nervosa


The goals for this study are 1) to test the feasibility of iTBS in AN and 2) to gather pilot data to as proof of concept of its effectiveness in AN prior to applying for larger funding to the NIH.

Subjects will complete a battery of self-assessments and a diagnostic assessment in order to determine eligibility and for characterization of behavior to be used in later analyses. After eligibility is confirmed, subjects will take part in iTBS treatment over either 1 week (active iTBS groups) or 2 weeks, (1 week sham treatment group, followed by 1 week active iTBS).

The design will be a randomized control design that also includes a cross over design. Subjects will be randomized to either Group 1, Active iTBS, or Group 2, Sham/Active iTBS.

Group 1 will receive active iTBS over 5 days, with 10 brief sessions per day (5 study days/50 session total). Group 2 will receive Sham over 5 days, with 10 brief sessions per day, and this will be followed by active iTBS over 5 days, with 10 brief sessions per day (20 study days/100 session total).


Anorexia Nervosa, Anorexia, rTMS treatment using BrainsWay Model 104 system with H1-Coil


You can join if…

Open to females ages 18-45

  • Females ages 18 to 45 years
  • Diagnostic criteria. Current diagnosis of AN according to the DSM V, including having a severe fear of weight gain and body image distortion
  • Restricting or binge/purge subtype
  • English is primary language spoken

You CAN'T join if...

  • Subjects who are pregnant or think they may be pregnant will be excluded from the study.
  • Subjects will not have electrolyte, blood count or kidney or liver function abnormalities. Prior to starting the TMS treatment (Visit 2), all subjects will complete a basic metabolic panel (must be completed within no more than one week prior to the start of the TMS treatment) to rule out electrolyte or metabolic abnormalities.
  • Subjects may not have a lifetime history of a condition likely to be associated with increased intracranial pressure, space occupying brain lesion, any history of seizure except those therapeutically induced by ECT or a febrile seizure of infancy or single seizure related to a known drug related event.
  • Subjects may not have a history of significant head trauma with loss of consciousness for greater than 5 minutes.
  • Subjects may not have an intracranial implant (e.g., aneurysm clips, shunts, stimulators, cochlear implants, or electrodes) or any other metal object within or near the head, excluding the mouth, that cannot be safely removed.
  • Subjects may not currently take more than lorazepam 2 mg daily (or equivalent) or any dose of an anticonvulsant due to the potential to limit TMS efficacy or have a history of lack of response to accelerated course of iTBS or rTMS in the past.
  • Subjects may not have a concomitant major unstable medical illness, cardiac pacemaker or implanted medication pump.
  • Subjects may not have symptoms of alcohol or substance abuse or dependence in the past month, may not have previous or current organic brain syndromes, psychotic disorders, bipolar type disorders, somatization disorders, or conversion disorder.
  • Antidepressant bupropion or other seizure threshold lowering medication or are currently taking tricyclic antidepressants or neuroleptics.
  • Permanent eye makeup (such as eyeliner or eyebrows) or other face tattoos due to potential ferrous materials used in the tattoo ink
  • Subjects may not have a history of neurocardiogenic syncope as there is an increased risk of TMS-induced neurocardiogenic syncope in adolescent populations.
  • Subjects may not have implanted neurostimulators, intracardiac lines, or heart disease that causes moderate to severe symptoms and/or is characterized by moderate to severe pathology (including a recent history of myocardial infarction and heart failure with an ejection fraction of less than 30% or with a New York Heart Association Functional Classification of Class III or IV).
  • Subjects may not have a history of stroke or other brain lesions.
  • Subjects may not have a history of suicide attempt(s).
  • Subject may not have a family history of epilepsy.
  • Cannot refrain from drinking alcohol for the duration of the study. Subjects will be asked to refrain from consuming alcohol for the duration of the study. At the beginning of each treatment day subjects will be asked about alcohol consumption in the last 48 hours and will not complete the treatment sessions that day if they have had alcohol in the last 48 hours.


  • University of California San Diego accepting new patients
    San Diego California 92121 United States

Lead Scientist at UCSD

  • Guido Frank, MD
    Professor In Residence, Psychiatry, Vc-health Sciences-schools. Authored (or co-authored) 115 research publications. Research interests: Eating Disorders · Anorexia Nervosa · Bulimia Nervosa · Binge Eating Disorder · ARFID · Brain Imaging · Neuroscience · Treatment · Psychopharmacology · Psychotherapy


accepting new patients
Start Date
Completion Date
University of California, San Diego
Study Type
Expecting 40 study participants
Last Updated