We investigated whether intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) can improve the spatial cognitive function of rats with hypertension-induced cerebral small vessel disease. To prove our hypothesis, stroke-prone renovascular hypertensive rats (RHRSPs) were treated with iTBS beginning at postoperative week 22. The Morris water maze was performed to assess spatial cognitive function. The expression of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) subunits NR1, NR2A and NR2B, calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase IIα (CaMKIIα), p-CaMKIIα and α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptor subunit 1 (GluR1) in the hippocampus were evaluated by western blot analysis. The distribution of GluR1, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and ionized calcium-binding adaptor molecule-1 (IBa-1) in the CA1 and CA3 regions and dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus were evaluated by immunofluorescence analysis. Treatment with iTBS significantly improved the spatial cognitive function of RHRSPs, increased the expression of NR2B, p-CaMKIIα and GluR1 in the hippocampus, and decreased the proliferation of astrocytes and microglia. Our results showed that iTBS treatment had a beneficial effect on the cognitive impairments induced by cerebral small vessel disease, potentially through the activation of the NR2B-CaMKII pathway, an increase in GluR1 expression and the suppression of astrocyte and microglial activation.
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