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The Effects of Functionally Guided, Connectivity-Based rTMS on Amygdala Activation.


While repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is widely used to treat psychiatric disorders, innovations are needed to improve its efficacy. An important limitation is that while psychiatric disorders are associated with fronto-limbic dysregulation, rTMS does not have sufficient depth penetration to modulate affected subcortical structures. Recent advances in task-related functional connectivity provide a means to better link superficial and deeper cortical sources with the possibility of increasing fronto-limbic modulation to induce stronger therapeutic effects. The objective of this pilot study was to test whether task-related, connectivity-based rTMS could modulate amygdala activation through its connectivity with the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). fMRI was collected to identify a node in the mPFC showing the strongest connectivity with the amygdala, as defined by psychophysiological interaction analysis. To promote Hebbian-like plasticity, and potentially stronger modulation, 5 Hz rTMS was applied while participants viewed frightening video-clips that engaged the fronto-limbic network. Significant increases in both the mPFC and amygdala were found for active rTMS compared to sham, offering promising preliminary evidence that functional connectivity-based targeting may provide a useful approach to treat network dysregulation. Further research is needed to better understand connectivity influences on rTMS effects to leverage this information to improve therapeutic applications.

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