Continuous theta burst stimulation to dorsomedial prefrontal cortex in young adults with depression: Changes in resting frontostriatal functional connectivity relevant to positive mood

Behav Res Ther. 2024 Mar:174:104493. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2024.104493. Epub 2024 Feb 7.


Depression is associated with diminished positive affect (PA), postulated to reflect frontostriatal reward circuitry disruptions. Depression has consistently been associated with higher dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC) activation, a region that regulates PA through ventral striatum (VS) connections. Low PA in depression may reflect dmPFC's aberrant functional connectivity (FC) with the VS. To test this, we applied theta burst stimulation (TBS) to dmPFC in 29 adults with depression (79% female, Mage = 21.4, SD = 2.04). Using a randomized, counterbalanced design, we administered 3 types of TBS at different sessions: intermittent (iTBS; potentiating), continuous (cTBS; depotentiating), and sham TBS (control). We used neuronavigation to target personalized dmPFC targets based on VS-dmPFC FC. PA and negative affect (NA), and resting-state fMRI were collected pre- and post-TBS. We found no changes in PA or NA with time (pre/post), condition (iTBS, cTBS, sham), or their interaction. Functional connectivity (FC) between the nucleus accumbens and dmPFC showed a significant condition (cTBS, iTBS, and sham) by time (pre-vs. post-TBS) interaction, and post-hoc testing showed decreased pre-to post-TBS for cTBS but not iTBS or sham. For cTBS only, reduced FC pre/post stimulation was associated with increased PA (but not NA). Our findings lend support to the proposed mechanistic model of aberrant FC between the dmPFC and VS in depression and suggest a way forward for treating depression in young adults. Future studies need to evaluate multi-session TBS to test clinical effects.

Keywords: Depression; Dorsomedial prefrontal cortex; Neural reward circuitry; Positive Affect; Theta burst stimulation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*
  • Young Adult