High frequency heart rate variability evoked by repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation over the medial prefrontal cortex: A preliminary investigation on brain processing of acute stressor-evoked cardiovascular reactivity


Introduction: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive technique for brain stimulation. Repetitive TMS (rTMS) over the medial Prefrontal Cortex (mPFC), Broadman Area 10 (BA10) may stimulate transynaptically perigenual Anterior Cingulate Cortex (pACC, BA 33), insula, amigdala, hypothalamus and connected branches of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) involved in stressorevoked cardiovascular reactivity. Stressors are associated with an increase in sympathetic cardiac control, a decrease in parasympathetic control, or both, and, consequently, an increase in systolic/stroke volume, total vascular impedance/resistance and heart rate, a decrease of baroreflex sensitivity, i.e., an increase in blood pressure/arterial tension. Objectives and Aims: The present work aims, using TMS and accordingly to Gianaros modeling, based on functional neuroimaging studies and previous neuroanatomical data from animal models, to probe the connectivity of brain systems involved in stressor-evoked cardiovascular reactivity and to explore TMS potential as a tool for detection and stratification of individual differences concerning this reactivity and hemorreological risk factors correlated with the development of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). Methods: Both subjects, a 52 years old male and a 40 years old female with previous increased Low Frequency (LF)/High Frequency (HF) Heart Rate Variability (HRV) ratios (respectively, 4.209/3.028) without decompensated cardiorespiratory symptoms, gave informed consent, and ethico-legal issues have been observed. Electroencephalographic (EEG) monitoring has been performed for safety purposes. Immediately after administration, over the mPFC, of 15 pulses of rTMS, during 60 second, with an inductive electrical current, at the stimulating coil, of 85.9 Ampère per μsecond and 66 Ampère per μsecond, respectively, for male and female subjects (a “figure-of-eight” coil and magnetic stimulator MagLite, Dantec/Medtronic, have been used), HRV spectrum analysis (cStress software) has been performed (during 5 minutes, in supine position). Results: In both subjects, LF power, HF power and LF/HF ratio results, before and after rTMS administration, pointed towards sympathetic attenuation and parasympathetic augmentation (respectively, in male/female subject: decreased LF power—65.1 nu/69.3 nu, before rTMS; 56.1 nu/41.6 nu, after rTMS; increased HF power—15.5 nu/22.9 nu, before rTMS; 30.9 nu/45.5 nu, after rTMS). Conclusions: In this preliminary investigation, the existence of a link between “mind” and heart’s function has been put in evidence, through a reversible “virtual” lesion, of brain systems involved in cardiovascular control, caused by TMS. Repetitive TMS over mPFC decreased brain function involved in stressorevoked cardiovascular reactivity, suggesting the importance of TMS in the management of stress-related cardiovascular disorders.

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Gonçalves, E. and Jesus, S. (2013) High frequency heart rate variability evoked by repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation over the medial prefrontal cortex: A preliminary investigation on brain processing of acute stressor-evoked cardiovascular reactivity. Open Journal of Psychiatry, 3, 335-344. doi: 10.4236/ojpsych.2013.34035.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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