Research ArticleNEUROSCIENCE

The physiological effects of noninvasive brain stimulation fundamentally differ across the human cortex

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Science Advances  31 Jan 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 5, eaay2739
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay2739


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive method to modulate brain activity and behavior in humans. Still, stimulation effects substantially vary across studies and individuals, thereby restricting the large-scale application of TMS in research or clinical settings. We revealed that low-frequency stimulation had opposite impact on the functional connectivity of sensory and cognitive brain regions. Biophysical modeling then identified a neuronal mechanism underlying these region-specific effects. Stimulation of the frontal cortex decreased local inhibition and disrupted feedforward and feedback connections. Conversely, identical stimulation increased local inhibition and enhanced forward signaling in the occipital cortex. Last, we identified functional integration as a macroscale network parameter to predict the region-specific effect of stimulation in individual subjects. In summary, we revealed how TMS modulation critically depends on the connectivity profile of target regions and propose an imaging marker to improve sensitivity of noninvasive brain stimulation for research and clinical applications.

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