BACKGROUND: Temporomandibular disorders are a group of orofacial pain conditions that are commonly identified in the general population. Like many other chronic pain conditions, they can be associated with anxiety/depression, which can be related to changes in the activity of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Some studies have demonstrated clinical improvement in subjects with chronic pain who are given therapeutic neuromodulation. Transcranial direct current stimulation is a noninvasive brain stimulation technique that allows the modulation of neuronal membranes. This therapy can enhance or inhibit action potential generation in cortical neurons. In some instances, medications acting in the central nervous system may be helpful despite their adverse side effects. It is important to determine if cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area that modulates emotion and motor cortex excitability, has an analgesic effect on chronic temporomandibular disorders pain.

METHOD/DESIGN: The investigators will run a randomized, controlled crossover double blind study with 15 chronic muscular temporomandibular disorder subjects. Each subject will undergo active (1 mA and 2 mA) and sham transcranial direct current stimulation. Inclusion criteria will be determined by the Research Diagnostic Criteria for Temporomandibular Disorders questionnaire, with subjects who have a pain visual analogic scale score of greater than 4/10 and whose pain has been present for the previous 6 months, and with a State-Trait Anxiety Inventory score of more than 42. The influence of transcranial direct current stimulation will be assessed through a visual analogic scale, quantitative sensory testing, quantitative electroencephalogram, and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory score.

DISCUSSION: Some studies have demonstrated a strong association between anxiety/depression and chronic pain, where one may be the cause of the other. This is especially true in chronic temporomandibular disorders, and breaking this cycle may have an effect over the symptoms and associated dysfunction. We believe that by inhibiting activity of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex though cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation, there may be a change in both anxiety/depression and pain level. Transcranial direct current stimulation may emerge as a new tool to be considered for managing these patients. We envision that the information obtained from this study will provide a better understanding of the management of chronic temporomandibular disorders.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov on 24 May 2014 (Identifier: NCT02152267 ).

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Published in Trials, v. 16, article 415, p. 1-8.

© 2015 Brandão Filho et al.

Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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We would like to thank the CAPES (Higher Education Personnel Training Coordination) and CNPq (National Center for Scientific and Technological Development) agencies of the Brazilian government for the support given to this study (CAPES funding number A002_2013 and PDSE scholarship process number 12489-12-3). We also thank the State University of Bahia for its support during the Ph.D. process of one of the authors.

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