Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Gene Polymorphism Predicts Response to Continuous Theta Burst Stimulation in Chronic Stroke Patients

SOURCE: Neuromodulation. 25(4):569-577, 2022 Jun.

AUTHORS: Parchure S; Harvey DY; Shah-Basak PP; DeLoretta L; Wurzman R; Sacchetti D; Faseyitan O; Lohoff FW; Hamilton RH

OBJECTIVES: The efficacy of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in clinically relevant neuroplasticity research depends on the degree to which stimulation induces robust, reliable effects. The high degree of interindividual and intraindividual variability observed in response to rTMS protocols, such as continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS), therefore represents an obstacle to its utilization as treatment for neurological disorders. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein involved in human synaptic and neural plasticity, and a common polymorphism in the BDNF gene (Val66Met) may influence the capacity for neuroplastic changes that underlie the effects of cTBS and other rTMS protocols. While evidence from healthy individuals suggests that Val66Met polymorphism carriers may show diminished or facilitative effects of rTMS compared to their homozygous Val66Val counterparts, this has yet to be demonstrated in the patient populations where neuromodulatory therapies are most relevant.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We examined the effects of BDNF Val66Met polymorphism on cTBS aftereffects in stroke patients. We compared approximately 30 log-transformed motor-evoked potentials (LnMEPs) obtained per time point: at baseline and at 0, 10, 20, and 30 min after cTBS-600,
from 18 patients with chronic stroke using single TMS pulses. We used linear mixed-effects regression with trial-level data nested by subject for higher statistical power.

RESULTS: We found a significant interaction between BDNF genotype and pre-/post-cTBS LnMEPs. Val66Val carriers showed decrease in cortical excitability, whereas Val66Met carriers exhibited a modest increase in cortical excitability for 20 min poststimulation, followed by inhibition 30 min after cTBS-600.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings strongly suggest that BDNF genotype differentially affects neuroplastic responses to TMS in individuals with chronic stroke. This provides novel insight into potential sources of variability in cTBS response in patients, which has important implications for optimizing the utility of this neuromodulation approach. Incorporating BDNF polymorphism genetic screening to stratify patients prior to use of cTBS as a neuromodulatory technique in therapy or research may optimize
response rates.