Mechanisms Involved in Neuroprotective Effects of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

SOURCE: CNS & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets. 21(7):557-573, 2022.

AUTHORS: Caballero-Villarraso J; Medina FJ; Escribano BM; Aguera E; Santamaria A; Pascual-Leone A; Tunez I 

ABSTRACT: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is widely used in neurophysiology to study cortical excitability. Research over the last few decades has highlighted its added value as a potential therapeutic tool in the treatment of a broad range of psychiatric disorders. More recently, a number of studies have reported beneficial and therapeutic effects for TMS in neurodegenerative conditions and strokes. Yet, despite its recognised clinical applications and considerable research using animal models, the molecular and physiological mechanisms through which TMS exerts its beneficial and therapeutic effects remain unclear. They are thought to involve biochemical-molecular events affecting membrane potential and gene expression. In this aspect, the dopaminergic system plays a special role. This is the most directly and selectively modulated neurotransmitter system, producing an increase in the flux of dopamine (DA) in various areas of the brain after the application of repetitive TMS (rTMS). Other neurotransmitters, such as glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) have shown a paradoxical response to rTMS. In this way, their levels increased in the hippocampus and striatum but decreased in the hypothalamus and remained unchanged in the mesencephalon. Similarly, there are sufficient evidence that TMS up-regulates the gene expression of BDNF (one of the main brain neurotrophins). Something similar occurs with the expression of genes such as c-Fos and zif268 that encode trophic and regenerative action neuropeptides. Consequently, the application of TMS can promote the release of molecules involved in neuronal genesis and maintenance. This capacity may mean that TMS becomes a useful therapeutic resource to antagonize processes that underlie the previously mentioned neurodegenerative conditions.