Microglial Cytokines Mediate Plasticity Induced by 10 Hz Repetitive Magnetic Stimulation

J Neurosci. 2023 Apr 26;43(17):3042-3060. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2226-22.2023. Epub 2023 Mar 28.


Microglia, the resident immune cells of the CNS, sense the activity of neurons and regulate physiological brain functions. They have been implicated in the pathology of brain diseases associated with alterations in neural excitability and plasticity. However, experimental and therapeutic approaches that modulate microglia function in a brain region-specific manner have not been established. In this study, we tested for the effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), a clinically used noninvasive brain stimulation technique, on microglia-mediated synaptic plasticity; 10 Hz electromagnetic stimulation triggered a release of plasticity-promoting cytokines from microglia in mouse organotypic brain tissue cultures of both sexes, while no significant changes in microglial morphology or microglia dynamics were observed. Indeed, substitution of tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) and interleukin 6 (IL6) preserved synaptic plasticity induced by 10 Hz stimulation in the absence of microglia. Consistent with these findings, in vivo depletion of microglia abolished rTMS-induced changes in neurotransmission in the mPFC of anesthetized mice of both sexes. We conclude that rTMS affects neural excitability and plasticity by modulating the release of cytokines from microglia.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a noninvasive brain stimulation technique that induces cortical plasticity. Despite its wide use in neuroscience and clinical practice (e.g., depression treatment), the cellular and molecular mechanisms of rTMS-mediated plasticity remain not well understood. Herein, we report an important role of microglia and plasticity-promoting cytokines in synaptic plasticity induced by 10 Hz rTMS in organotypic slice cultures and anesthetized mice, thereby identifying microglia-mediated synaptic adaptation as a target of rTMS-based interventions.

Keywords: IL6; TNF; excitatory synaptic plasticity; microglia; microglia depletion; rTMS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain
  • Cytokines*
  • Female
  • Magnetic Phenomena
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Microglia*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods


  • Cytokines