Modulation of a Stable Neurobehavioral Trait Using Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: A Preregistered Randomized Controlled Trial


Hypnotizability, one’s ability to experience cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physical changes in response to suggestions in the context of hypnosis, is a highly stable trait associated with increased functional connectivity between the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (L-DLPFC) and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC). We conducted a preregistered, triple-blinded, randomized controlled trial to test the ability of continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) over a personalized neuroimaging-based L-DLPFC target to temporarily enhance hypnotizability. We tested our hypothesis in 78 patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), a functional pain disorder for which hypnosis has consistently been shown to be beneficial as a nonpharmacological treatment option. Pre-to-post cTBS change in Hypnotic Induction Profile scores (HIP; a standardized measure of hypnotizability) was significantly greater in the Active versus Sham group. Our findings suggest a causal relationship between L-DLPFC and dACC function and hypnotizability. Dose-response optimization should be further examined to formalize guidelines for future clinical utilization.