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Cortical-subcortical structural connections support transcranial magnetic stimulation engagement of the amygdala

By Valerie J Sydnor, Matthew Cieslak, Romain Duprat, Joseph Deluisi, Matthew W. Flounders, Hannah Long, Morgan Scully, Nicholas L Balderston, Yvette I Sheline, Dani S. Bassett, Theodore D Satterthwaite, Desmond J. Oathes

Posted 15 Nov 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.11.12.468411

The amygdala processes valenced stimuli, influences affective states, and exhibits aberrant activity across anxiety disorders, depression, and PTSD. Interventions that modulate amygdala activity hold promise for treating transdiagnostic affective symptoms. We investigated (N=45) whether transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) elicits indirect changes in amygdala activity when applied to ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC), a region important for affect regulation. Harnessing in-scanner interleaved TMS/functional MRI (fMRI), we reveal that vlPFC neurostimulation evoked acute, dose-dependent modulations of amygdala fMRI BOLD signal. Larger TMS-evoked changes in amygdala fMRI signal were associated with higher fiber density in a vlPFC-amygdala white matter pathway, suggesting this pathway facilitated stimulation-induced communication between cortex and subcortex. This work provides evidence of amygdala engagement by TMS, highlighting stimulation of vlPFC-amygdala circuits as a candidate treatment for affective psychopathology. More broadly, it indicates that targeting cortical-subcortical connections may enhance the impact of TMS on subcortical neural activity and, by extension, subcortex-subserved behaviors.

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