The Immediate Impact of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation on Brain Structure: Short-Term Neuroplasticity Following One Session of cTBS


Neuroimage. 240:118375, 2021 10 15.

Jung J; Lambon Ralph MA

Recent evidence demonstrates that activation-dependent neuroplasticity on a structural level can occur in a short time (2 hour or less) in the human brain. However, the exact time scale of structural plasticity in the human brain remains unclear. Using voxel-based morphometry (VBM), we investigated changes in grey matter (GM) after one session of continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) delivered to the anterior temporal lobe (ATL). Twenty-five participants received cTBS over the left ATL or the occipital pole as a control site outside of the scanner, followed by structural and functional imaging. During functional imaging, participants performed a semantic association task and a number judgment task as a control task. VBM results revealed decreased GM in the left ATL and right cerebellum after the ATL stimulation compared to the control stimulation. In addition, cTBS over the left ATL induced slower semantic reaction times, reduced regional activity at the target site, and altered functional connectivity between the left and right ATL during semantic processing. Furthermore, the decreased ATL GM density was associated with the interhemispheric ATL-connectivity changes after the ATL stimulation. These results demonstrate that structural alterations caused by one session of cTBS are mirrored in the functional reorganizations in the semantic representation system, showing the rapid dynamics of cortical plasticity. Our findings support fast adapting neuronal plasticity such as synaptic morphology changes. Our results suggest that TBS is able to produce powerful changes in regional synaptic activity in the adult human brain.