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Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Feb 15;45(4):385-94.

A combined TMS/fMRI study of intensity-dependent TMS over motor cortex.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston 29425, USA.



Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) allows noninvasive stimulation of neurons using time-varying magnetic fields. Researchers have begun combining TMS with functional imaging to simultaneously stimulate and image brain activity. Recently, the feasibility of interleaving TMS with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was demonstrated. This study tests this new method to determine if TMS at different intensities shows different local and remote activation.


Within a 1.5 Tesla (T) MRI scanner, seven adults were stimulated with a figure-eight TMS coil over the left motor cortex for thumb, while continuously acquiring blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) echoplanar images. TMS was applied at 1 Hz in 18-second long trains delivered alternately at 110% and 80% of motor threshold separated by rest periods.


Though the TMS coil caused some artifacts and reduced the signal to noise ratio (SNR), higher intensity TMS caused greater activation than lower, both locally and remotely. The magnitude (approximately 3% increase) and temporal onset (2 to 5 sec) of TMS induced blood flow changes appear similar to those induced using other motor and cognitive tasks.


Though work remains in refining this potentially powerful method, combined TMS/fMRI is both technically feasible and produces measurable dose-dependent changes in brain activity.

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