The dysfunction of cholinergic neurons is a typical hallmark in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Previous findings demonstrated that high density of cholinergic receptors is found in the thalamus and the cerebellum compared with the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus. We aimed at investigating whether activation of the cerebello-thalamo-cortical pathway by means of cerebellar theta burst stimulation (TBS) could modulate central cholinergic functions evaluated in vivo by using the neurophysiological determination of Short-Latency Afferent Inhibition (SLAI). We tested the SLAI circuit before and after administration of cerebellar continuous TBS (cTBS) in 12 AD patients and in 12 healthy age-matched control subjects (HS). We also investigated potential changes of intracortical circuits of the contralateral primary motor cortex (M1) by assessing short intracortical inhibition (SICI) and intracortical facilitation (ICF). SLAI was decreased in AD patients compared to HS. Cerebellar cTBS partially restored SLAI in AD patients at later inter-stimulus intervals (ISIs), but did not modify SLAI in HS. SICI and ICF did not differ in the two groups and were not modulated by cerebellar cTBS. These results demonstrate that cerebellar magnetic stimulation is likely to affect mechanisms of cortical cholinergic activity, suggesting that the cerebellum may have a direct influence on the cholinergic dysfunction in AD.
- Alzheimer's disease
- Cortical plasticity
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience