Lack of Effects of Four-Week Theta Burst Stimulation on White Matter Macro/Microstructure in Children and Adolescents with Autism

SOURCE: NeuroImage Clinical. 37:103324, 2023.

AUTHORS: Ni HC; Chao YP; Tseng RY; Wu CT; Cocchi L; Chou TL; Chen RS; Gau SS; Yeh CH; Lin HY

ABSTRACT: Following the published behavioral and cognitive results of this single-blind parallel sham-controlled randomized clinical trial, the current study aimed to explore the impact of intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS), a variant of excitatory transcranial magnetic stimulation, over the bilateral posterior superior temporal sulci (pSTS) on white matter macro/microstructure in intellectually able children and adolescents with autism. Participants were randomized and blindly received active or sham iTBS for 4 weeks (the single-blind sham-controlled phase). Then, all participants continued to receive active iTBS for another 4 weeks (the open-label phase). The clinical results were published elsewhere. Here, we present diffusion magnetic resonance imaging data on potential changes in white matter measures after iTBS. Twenty-two participants in Active-Active group and 27 participants in Sham-Active group underwent multi-shell high angular resolution diffusion imaging (64-direction for b = 2000 & 1000 s/mm2, respectively) at baseline, week 4, and week 8. With longitudinal fixel-based analysis, we found no white matter changes following iTBS from baseline to week 4 (a null treatment by time interaction and a null within-group paired comparison in the Active-Active group), nor from baseline to week 8 (null within-group paired comparisons in both Active-Active and Sham-Active groups). As for the brain-symptoms relationship, we did not find baseline white matter metrics associated with symptom changes at week 4 in either group. Our results raise the question of what the minimal cumulative stimulation dose required to induce the white matter plasticity is.