A Comprehensive Review of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Secondary Dementia

SOURCE: Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 14 (no pagination), 2022. Article Number: 995000.


AUTHORS: Lanza G.; Fisicaro F.; Dubbioso R.; Ranieri F.; Chistyakov A.V.; Cantone M.; Pennisi M.; Grasso A.A.; Bella R.; Di Lazzaro V.

ABSTRACT: Although primary degenerative diseases are the main cause of dementia, a non-negligible proportion of patients is affected by a secondary and potentially treatable cognitive disorder. Therefore, diagnostic tools able to early identify and monitor them and to predict the response to treatment are needed. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive neurophysiological technique capable of evaluating in vivo and in “”real time”” the motor areas, the cortico-spinal tract, and the neurotransmission pathways in several neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders, including cognitive impairment and dementia. While consistent evidence has been accumulated for Alzheimer’s disease, other degenerative cognitive disorders, and vascular dementia, to date a comprehensive review of TMS studies available in other secondary dementias is lacking. These conditions include, among others, normal-pressure hydrocephalus, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease and other immunologically mediated diseases, as well as a number of inflammatory, infective, metabolic, toxic, nutritional, endocrine, sleep-related, and rare genetic disorders. Overall, we observed that, while in degenerative dementia neurophysiological alterations might mirror specific, and possibly primary, neuropathological changes (and hence be used as early biomarkers), this pathogenic link appears to be weaker for most secondary forms of dementia, in which neurotransmitter dysfunction is more likely related to a systemic or diffuse neural damage. In these cases, therefore, an effort toward the understanding of pathological mechanisms of cognitive impairment should be made, also by investigating the relationship between functional alterations of brain circuits and the specific mechanisms of neuronal damage triggered by the causative disease. Neurophysiologically, although no distinctive TMS pattern can be identified that might be used to predict the occurrence or progression of cognitive decline in a specific condition, some TMS-associated measures of cortical function and plasticity (such as the short-latency afferent inhibition, the short-interval intracortical inhibition, and the cortical silent period) might add useful information in most of secondary dementia, especially in combination with suggestive clinical features and other diagnostic tests. The possibility to detect dysfunctional cortical circuits, to monitor the disease course, to probe the response to treatment, and to design novel neuromodulatory interventions in secondary dementia still represents a gap in the literature that needs to be explored.