Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability among children in the United States. Affected children will often suffer from emotional, cognitive and neurological impairments throughout life. In the controlled cortical impact (CCI) animal model of pediatric TBI (postnatal day 16-17) it was demonstrated that injury results in abnormal neuronal hypoactivity in the non-injured primary somatosensory cortex (S1). It materializes that reshaping the abnormal post-injury neuronal activity may provide a suitable strategy to augment rehabilitation. We tested whether high-frequency, non-invasive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) delivered twice a week over a four-week period can rescue the neuronal activity and improve the long-term functional neurophysiological and behavioral outcome in the pediatric CCI model. The results show that TBI rats subjected to TMS therapy showed significant increases in the evoked-fMRI cortical responses (189%), evoked synaptic activity (46%), evoked neuronal firing (200%) and increases expression of cellular markers of neuroplasticity in the non-injured S1 compared to TBI rats that did not receive therapy. Notably, these rats showed less hyperactivity in behavioral tests. These results implicate TMS as a promising approach for reversing the adverse neuronal mechanisms activated post-TBI. Importantly, this intervention could readily be translated to human studies.
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