Background: Major depressive disorder (MDD), particularly treatment-resistant ones, is associated with abnormal fronto-limbic glucose metabolism. 10-Hz repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over left prefrontal cortex (PFC) is believed to normalize the abnormal metabolism to treat depression. However, the exact molecular mechanisms underlying the mood circuit of depressed brains and whether brain stimulation techniques regulate the underlying molecules remain elusive. Methods: Whole-brain glucose metabolism and cortical excitatory and inhibitory markers including P30, N45, P60, N100, and LICI (long-interval cortical inhibition) of TMS-evoked potentials from left DLPFC were measured in 40 subjects with MDD patients. The neurophysiological markers were repeated immediately after 1st session of left PFC rTMS, intermittent theta-burst stimulation (iTBS), and sham (randomly assigned). Results: Brain glucose metabolism in the limbic structures significantly correlated with left PFC P30 (mainly GABA-A and glutamate receptor mediated) and with LICI (mainly GABA-B receptor mediated inhibition) (FWE-corrected p < 0.001). Correlations between other neurophysiological markers (left PFC N45, P60, and N100) and posterior cingulate cortex, a key region in the default mode network, were also noted. One session of rTMS significantly decreased left PFC P60 (mainly glutamate receptor mediated), while a significant group effect was found for LICI (iTBS < sham). Conclusion: The first study showed that the underlying molecular mechanisms of fronto-limbic circuit of MDD brains involved glutamatergic excitation and GABAergic inhibition at specific time points. In addition, one session of rTMS mainly modulated glutamatergic neurotransmission at left PFC, while the mechanisms of iTBS might involve GABA-B receptor mediated inhibition. Clinical trials registry number: UMIN000044951.
- Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation
- Theta burst stimulation