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High-frequency rTMS alleviates cognitive impairment and regulates synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus of rats with cerebral ischemia.

Poststroke cognitive impairment (PSCI) is a common complication of stroke, but effective treatments are currently lacking. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is gradually being applied to treat PSCI, but there is limited evidence of its efficacy. To determine rTMS effects on PSCI, we constructed a transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAO) rat model. Rats were then grouped by random digital table method: the sham group (n = 10), tMCAO group (n = 10) and rTMS group (n = 10). The shuttle box and Morris water maze (MWM) tests were conducted to detect the cognitive functions of the rats. In addition, synaptic density and synaptic ultrastructural parameters, including the active zone length, synaptic cleft width, and postsynaptic density (PSD) thickness, were quantified and analyzed using an electron microscope. What's more, synaptic associated proteins, including PSD95, SYN, and BDNF were detected by western blot. According to the shuttle box and MWM tests, rTMS improved tMCAO rats' cognitive functions, including spatial learning and memory and decision-making abilities. Electron microscopy revealed that rTMS significantly increased the synaptic density, synaptic active zone length and PSD thickness and decreased the synaptic cleft width. The western blot results showed that the expression of PSD95, SYN, and BDNF was markedly increased after rTMS stimulation. Based on these results, we propose that 20 Hz rTMS can significantly alleviate cognitive impairment after stroke. The underlying mechanism might be modulating the synaptic plasticity and up-regulating the expression PSD95, SYN, and BDNF in the hippocampus.

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