Subthreshold repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation drives structural synaptic plasticity in the young and aged motor cortex

Alexander D. Tang, William Bennett, Aidan D. Bindoff, Samuel Bolland, Jessica Collins, Ross C. Langley, Michael I. Garry, Jeffery J. Summers, Mark R. Hinder, Jennifer Rodger, Alison J. Canty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a non-invasive tool commonly used to drive neural plasticity in the young adult and aged brain. Recent data from mouse models have shown that even at subthreshold intensities (0.12 T), rTMS can drive neuronal and glial plasticity in the motor cortex. However, the physiological mechanisms underlying subthreshold rTMS induced plasticity and whether these are altered with normal ageing are unclear. Objective: To assess the effect of subthreshold rTMS, using the intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) protocol on structural synaptic plasticity in the mouse motor cortex of young and aged mice. Methods: Longitudinal in vivo 2-photon microscopy was used to measure changes to the structural plasticity of pyramidal neuron dendritic spines in the motor cortex following a single train of subthreshold rTMS (in young adult and aged animals) or the same rTMS train administered on 4 consecutive days (in young adult animals only). Data were analysed with Bayesian hierarchical generalized linear regression models and interpreted with the aid of Bayes Factors (BF). Results: We found strong evidence (BF > 10) that subthreshold rTMS altered the rate of dendritic spine losses and gains, dependent on the number of stimulation sessions and that a single session of subthreshold rTMS was effective in driving structural synaptic plasticity in both young adult and aged mice. Conclusion: These findings provide further evidence that rTMS drives synaptic plasticity in the brain and uncovers structural synaptic plasticity as a key mechanism of subthreshold rTMS induced plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1498-1507
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Stimulation
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


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