Acute prefrontal cortex TMS in healthy volunteers: Effects on brain 11C-αMtrp trapping

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High-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (LDLPFC) is a technique with purported efficacy as a treatment for major depression. Here, we assessedin vivo, in healthy volunteers, the effect of acute rTMS of the LDLPFC, relative to the stimulation of the left occipital cortex (LOC), on brain regional serotonin synthesis capacity, using the [11C]-alpha-methyl-tryptophan (11C-αMtrp)/PET method. Ten subjects were studied twice, once following rTMS of the LDLPFC and once following rTMS of the LOC in a randomized counterbalanced order. Three blocks of 15 trains of 10 Hz rTMS were delivered 10 min apart. Behavioural and autonomic measures were recorded before and after each rTMS session. Comparisons of TMS-related changes in regional normalized brain uptake and trapping of 11C-αMtrp (K*) values were carried out using SPM99. Statistically significant regional differences were identified on the basis of an extent threshold of 50 voxels, with a peak threshold ofp=0.005 uncorrected. Behavioural and autonomic measures were unaffected by rTMS. Relative to LOC stimulation, LDLPFC rTMS was associated with marked changes in normalizedK* in limbic areas, with significantly lower values in the left parahippocampal gyrus (BA 28) and the right insula (BA 13), and higher values in the right cingulate gyrus (BA 31) and cuneus (BA 18). These findings indicate that acute rTMS of the LDLPFC in healthy volunteers modulates aspects of tryptophan/5-HT metabolism in limbic areas. Such adaptive changes may contribute to the mechanism of action of prefrontal rTMS in major depression.

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