Enhancing Gamma Oscillations Restores Primary Motor Cortex Plasticity in Parkinson's Disease

Andrea Guerra, Francesco Asci, Valentina D'Onofrio, Valerio Sveva, Matteo Bologna, Giovanni Fabbrini, Alfredo Berardelli, Antonio Suppa

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In humans, γ oscillations in cortical motor areas reflect asynchronous synaptic activity and contribute to plasticity processes. In Parkinson's disease (PD), γ oscillatory activity in the basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical network is altered and the LTP-like plasticity elicited by intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) is reduced in the primary motor cortex (M1). In this study, we tested whether transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) delivered at γ frequency promotes iTBS-induced LTP-like plasticity in M1 in PD patients. Sixteen patients (OFF condition) and 16 healthy subjects (HSs) underwent iTBS during γ-tACS (iTBS-γ tACS) and during sham-tACS (iTBS-sham tACS) in two sessions. Motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) evoked by single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation and short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) were recorded before and after the costimulation. A subgroup of patients also underwent iTBS during β tACS. iTBS-sham tACS facilitated single-pulse MEPs in HSs, but not in patients. iTBS-γ tACS induced a larger MEP facilitation than iTBS-sham tACS in both groups, with similar values in patients and HSs. In patients, SICI improved after iTBS-γ tACS. The effect produced by iTBS-γ tACS on single-pulse MEPs correlated with disease duration, while changes in SICI correlated with Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale Part III scores. The effect of iTBS-β tACS on both single-pulse MEPs and SICI was similar to that obtained in the iTBS-sham tACS session. Our data suggest that γ oscillations have a role in the pathophysiology of the abnormal LTP-like plasticity in PD. Entraining M1 neurons at the γ rhythm through tACS may be an effective method to restore impaired plasticity.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT In Parkinson's disease, the LTP-like plasticity of the primary motor cortex is impaired, and γ oscillations are altered in the basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical network. Using a combined transcranial magnetic stimulation-transcranial alternating current stimulation approach (iTBS-γ tACS costimulation), we demonstrate that driving γ oscillations restores the LTP-like plasticity in patients with Parkinson's disease. The effects correlate with clinical characteristics of patients, being more evident in less affected patients and weaker in patients with longer disease duration. These findings suggest that cortical γ oscillations play a beneficial role in modulating the LTP-like plasticity of M1 in Parkinson's disease. The iTBS-γ tACS approach may be potentially useful in rehabilitative settings in patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4788-4796
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Jun 10 2020


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