A Preclinical Study of Standard Versus Accelerated Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Depression in Adolescents

SOURCE: Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychopharmacology. 32(3):187-193, 2022 Apr.

AUTHORS: Seewoo BJ; Hennessy LA; Jaeschke LA; Mackie LA; Etherington SJ; Dunlop SA; Croarkin PE; Rodger J

Ongoing studies are focused on adapting transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for the treatment of major depressive disorder in adolescent humans. Most protocols in adolescent humans to date have delivered daily 10 Hz prefrontal stimulation with mixed results. Novel TMS dosing strategies such as accelerated TMS have recently been considered. There are knowledge gaps related to the potential clinical and pragmatic advantages of accelerated TMS. This pilot study compared the behavioral effects of a standard daily and accelerated low-intensity TMS (LI-TMS) protocol in an adolescent murine model of depression.

METHODS: Male adolescent Sprague Dawley rats were placed in transparent plexiglass tubes for 2.5 hours daily for 13 days as part of a study to validate the chronic restraint stress (CRS) protocol. Rats subsequently received 10 minutes of
active or sham 10 Hz LI-TMS daily for 2 weeks (standard) or three times daily for 1 week (accelerated). Behavior was assessed using the elevated plus maze and forced swim test (FST). Hippocampal neurogenesis was assessed by injection of the thymidine analogue 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine at the end of LI-TMS treatment (2 weeks standard, 1 week accelerated), followed by postmortem histological analysis.

RESULTS: There were no significant differences in behavioral outcomes among animals receiving once-daily sham or active LI-TMS treatment. However, animals treated with accelerated LI-TMS demonstrated significant improvements in behavioral outcomes compared with sham treatment. Specifically, animals receiving active accelerated treatment showed greater latency to the first immobility behavior (p < 0.05; active: 130 +/- 46 seconds; sham: 54 +/- 39 seconds) and increased climbing behaviors (p < 0.05; active: 16 +/- 5; sham: 9 +/- 5) during FST. There were no changes in hippocampal neurogenesis nor any evidence of cell death in histological sections.

CONCLUSIONS: An accelerated LI-TMS protocol outperformed the standard (once-daily) protocol in adolescent male animals with depression-like behaviors induced by CRS and was not accompanied by any toxicity or tolerability concerns. These preliminary findings support the speculation that novel TMS dosing strategies should be studied in adolescent humans and will inform future clinical protocols.