Effects of neurostimulation are greater in people with genetic variant in gene, study shows


A new study by the University of Barcelona revealed people with the Val/Val genetic variant for the BDNF gene are more likely to respond well to transcranial magnetic stimulation, which alters cognitive function, than those without the genetic variant.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports and was led by Kilian Abellaneda-Pérez, PhD, member of the Barcelona Brain Stimulation Lab (BBSLab). The study included 43 participants with a mean age of 23 years old. All the subjects were healthy young males with at least a high school degree. Of them, 19 were determined to be Met allele carriers and 24 as Val/Val individuals.

For the study, participants first underwent visual memory tasks as researchers applied transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive method of determining brain activity, over their left frontal cortex (LFC) or their cranial vertex. TMS over the LFC was considered the experimental condition. Next, participants were tested on their recognition memory during a functional MRI (fMRI).

The results showed only those classified as Val/Val individuals had reduced memory performance when TMS was delivered to their LFC compared to when it was delivered to the cranial vertex. In addition, fMRI results revealed Val/Val individuals had greater levels of cognitive activity during memory recognition. Most of the cognitive activity was seen over the frontal regions of the brain, which, according to researchers, was associated with enhanced brain function.

This study suggests people with the Val/Val genetic variant may respond more positively to cognitive stimulation than those without the variant, providing more insight into the benefits of creating more individualized interventions for memory disorders.