Reconfiguration of Functional Dynamics in Cortico-Thalamo-Cerebellar Circuit in Schizophrenia Following High-Frequency Repeated Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 16 (2022)
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Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness characterized by a disconnection between brain regions. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a non-invasive brain intervention technique that can be used as a new and safe treatment option for patients with schizophrenia with drug-refractory symptoms, such as negative symptoms and cognitive impairment. However, the therapeutic effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation remain unclear and would be investigated using non-invasive tools, such as functional connectivity. A longitudinal design was adopted to investigate the alteration in FC dynamics using a dynamic functional connectivity approach in patients with schizophrenia following high-frequency repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation with the target at the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Two groups of schizophrenia inpatients were recruited. One group received a 4-week high-frequency rTMS together with antipsychotic drugs, while the other group only received antipsychotic drugs. Resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging and psychiatric symptoms were obtained from the patients with schizophrenia twice at baseline and after 4-week treatment. The dynamics was evaluated using voxel- and region-wise FC temporal variability resulting from fMRI data. The pattern classification technique was used to verify the clinical application value of FC temporal variability. For the voxel-wise FC temporary variability, the repeated measures ANCOVA analysis showed significant treatment × time interaction effects on the FC temporary variability between the left DLPFC and several regions, including the thalamus, cerebellum, precuneus, and precentral gyrus, which are mainly located within the cortico-thalamo-cerebellar circuit. For the ROI-wise FC temporary variability, our results found a significant interaction effect on the FC among CTCC. rTMS intervention led to a reduced FC temporary variability. In addition, higher alteration in FC temporal variability between left DLPFC and right posterior parietal thalamus predicted a higher remission ratio of negative symptom scores, indicating that the decrease of FC temporal variability between the brain regions was associated with the remission of schizophrenia severity. The support vector regression results suggested that the baseline pattern of FC temporary variability between the regions in CTCC could predict the efficacy of high-frequency rTMS intervention on negative symptoms in schizophrenia. These findings confirm the potential relationship between the reduction in whole-brain functional dynamics induced by high-frequency rTMS and the improvement in psychiatric scores, suggesting that high-frequency rTMS affects psychiatric symptoms by coordinating the heterogeneity of activity between the brain regions. Future studies would examine the clinical utility of using functional dynamics patterns between specific brain regions as a biomarker to predict the treatment response of high-frequency rTMS.



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