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Brain Energy Consumption Induced by Electrical Stimulation Promotes Systemic Glucose Uptake

      Background

      Controlled transcranial stimulation of the brain is part of clinical treatment strategies in neuropsychiatric diseases such as depression, stroke, or Parkinson's disease. Manipulating brain activity by transcranial stimulation, however, inevitably influences other control centers of various neuronal and neurohormonal feedback loops and therefore may concomitantly affect systemic metabolic regulation. Because hypothalamic adenosine triphosphate–sensitive potassium channels, which function as local energy sensors, are centrally involved in the regulation of glucose homeostasis, we tested whether transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) causes an excitation-induced transient neuronal energy depletion and thus influences systemic glucose homeostasis and related neuroendocrine mediators.

      Methods

      In a crossover design testing 15 healthy male volunteers, we increased neuronal excitation by anodal tDCS versus sham and examined cerebral energy consumption with 31phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Systemic glucose uptake was determined by euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic glucose clamp, and neurohormonal measurements comprised the parameters of the stress systems.

      Results

      We found that anodic tDCS-induced neuronal excitation causes an energetic depletion, as quantified by 31phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Moreover, tDCS-induced cerebral energy consumption promotes systemic glucose tolerance in a standardized euglycemic-hyperinsulinemic glucose clamp procedure and reduces neurohormonal stress axes activity.

      Conclusions

      Our data demonstrate that transcranial brain stimulation not only evokes alterations in local neuronal processes but also clearly influences downstream metabolic systems regulated by the brain. The beneficial effects of tDCS on metabolic features may thus qualify brain stimulation as a promising nonpharmacologic therapy option for drug-induced or comorbid metabolic disturbances in various neuropsychiatric diseases.

      Key Words

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