Chronic psychosocial stress and concomitant repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation: effects on stress hormone levels and adult hippocampal neurogenesis

Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Dec 1;52(11):1057-65. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(02)01457-9.


Background: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation is increasingly used as a therapeutic tool in psychiatry and has been demonstrated to attenuate the activity of the stress hormone system. Stress-induced structural remodeling in the adult hippocampus may provide a cellular basis for understanding the impairment of neural plasticity in depressive illness. Accordingly, reversal of structural remodeling might be a desirable goal for antidepressant therapy. The present study investigated the effect of chronic psychosocial stress and concomitant repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment on stress hormone regulation and hippocampal neurogenesis.

Methods: Adult male rats were submitted to daily psychosocial stress and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (20 Hz) for 18 days. Cell proliferation in the dentate gyrus was quantified by using BrdU immunohistochemistry, and both the proliferation rate of progenitors and the survival rate of BrdU-labeled cells were evaluated. To characterize the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system, plasma corticotropin and corticosterone concentrations were measured.

Results: Chronic psychosocial stress resulted in a significant increase of stress hormone levels and potently suppressed the proliferation rate and survival of the newly generated hippocampal granule cells. Concomitant repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment normalized the stress-induced elevation of stress hormones; however, despite the normalized activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system, the decrement of hippocampal cell proliferation was only mildly attenuated by repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, while the survival rate of BrdU-labeled cells was further suppressed by the treatment.

Conclusions: These results support the notion that attenuation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system is an important mechanism underlying the clinically observed antidepressant effect of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, whereas this experimental design did not reveal beneficial effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on adult hippocampal neurogenesis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood*
  • Animals
  • Cell Division / radiation effects
  • Cell Survival / radiation effects
  • Corticosterone / blood*
  • Electromagnetic Fields
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Hippocampus / radiation effects
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / radiation effects
  • Male
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / radiation effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*
  • Stress, Psychological / pathology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*


  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Corticosterone