Effect of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation on the Cognitive Impairment Induced by Sleep Deprivation: A Randomized Trial

SOURCE: Sleep Medicine. 77:270-278, 2021 01.

AUTHORS: Li S; Zhou H; Yu Y; Lyu H; Mou T; Shi G; Hu S; Huang M; Hu J; Xu Y

OBJECTIVE: Currently, an efficient method for improving cognitive impairment due to sleep deprivation (SD) is lacking. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effect of high-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) during SD on reversing the adverse effects of SD.

METHODS: A total of 66 healthy people were randomized into the rTMS group and sham group. Both groups were deprived of sleep for 24 h. During SD, participants were asked to complete several cognitive tasks and underwent mood assessments. Saliva cortisol levels, plasma concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), precursor BDNF (proBDNF), and tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA), and frontal blood activation were detected before and after SD. The rTMS group received real rTMS stimulation for 2 sessions of 10 Hz rTMS (40 trains of 50 pulses with a 20-second intertrain interval) to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the sham group received sham stimulation during SD.

RESULTS: Twenty-four hours of SD induced a reduced accuracy in the n-back task, increases in both anxiety and depression, increased cortisol levels, decreased frontal blood activation, and decreased BDNF levels in healthy people. Notably, rTMS improved the hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and decreased frontal blood activation induced by SD, and reduced the consumption of plasma proBDNF.

CONCLUSIONS: Twenty-four hours of SD induced a cognitive impairment. The administration of high-frequency rTMS during sleep deprivation exerted positive effects on HPA axis and frontal activation and might help alleviate cognitive impairment in the long term.