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The effect of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on gamma oscillatory activity in schizophrenia

Barr MS, Farzan F, Arenovich T, Chen R, Fitzgerald PB, Daskalakis ZJ.

Background: Gamma (γ) oscillations (30-50 Hz) have been shown to be excessive in patients with schizophrenia (SCZ) during working memory (WM). WM is a cognitive process that involves the online maintenance and manipulation of information that is mediated largely by the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) represents a non-invasive method to stimulate the cortex that has been shown to enhance cognition and γ oscillatory activity during WM.

Methodology and principal findings: We examined the effect of 20 Hz rTMS over the DLPFC on γ oscillatory activity elicited during the N-back task in 24 patients with SCZ compared to 22 healthy subjects. Prior to rTMS, patients with SCZ elicited excessive γ oscillatory activity compared to healthy subjects across WM load. Active rTMS resulted in the reduction of frontal γ oscillatory activity in patients with SCZ, while potentiating activity in healthy subjects in the 3-back, the most difficult condition. Further, these effects on γ oscillatory activity were found to be specific to the frontal brain region and were absent in the parieto-occipital brain region.

Conclusions and significance: We suggest that this opposing effect of rTMS on γ oscillatory activity in patients with SCZ versus healthy subjects may be related to homeostatic plasticity leading to differential effects of rTMS on γ oscillatory activity depending on baseline differences. These findings provide important insights into the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying WM deficits in SCZ and demonstrated that rTMS can modulate γ oscillatory activity that may be a possible avenue for cognitive potentiation in this disorder.

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