BackgroundCerebellar structural and functional abnormalities underlie widespread deficits in clinical, cognitive, and motor functioning that are observed in schizophrenia. Consequently, the cerebellum is a promising target for novel schizophrenia treatments. Here we conducted an updated systematic review examining the literature on cerebellar stimulation efficacy and tolerability for mitigating symptoms of schizophrenia. We discuss the purported mechanisms of cerebellar stimulation, current methods for implementing stimulation, and future directions of cerebellar stimulation for intervention development with this population.
MethodsTwo independent authors identified 20 published studies (7 randomized controlled trials, 7 open-label studies, 1 pilot study, 4 case reports, 1 preclinical study) that describe the effects of cerebellar circuitry modulation in patients with schizophrenia or animal models of psychosis. Published studies up to October 11, 2022 were identified from a search within PubMed, Scopus, and PsycInfo.
ResultsMost studies stimulating the cerebellum used transcranial magnetic stimulation or transcranial direct-current stimulation, specifically targeting the cerebellar vermis/midline. Accounting for levels of methodological rigor across studies, these studies detected post-cerebellar modulation in schizophrenia as indicated by the alleviation of certain clinical symptoms (mainly negative and depressive symptoms), as well as increased frontal-cerebellar connectivity and augmentation of canonical neuro-oscillations known to be abnormal in schizophrenia. In contrast to a prior review, we did not find consistent evidence for cognitive improvements following cerebellar modulation stimulation. Modern cerebellar stimulation methods appear tolerable for individuals with schizophrenia, with only mild and temporary side effects.
ConclusionCerebellar stimulation is a promising intervention for individuals with schizophrenia that may be more relevant to some symptom domains than others. Initial results highlight the need for continued research using more methodologically rigorous designs, such as additional longitudinal and randomized controlled trials.
Systematic review registration[https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/], identifier [CRD42022346667].