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J Psychiatr Res. 2006 Jun;40(4):315-21. Epub 2005 Aug 2.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex affects divided attention immediately after cessation of stimulation.

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Psychiatric Neuroimaging Group, Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital Bern, Switzerland.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation has evolved into a powerful neuroscientific tool allowing to interfere transiently with specific brain functions. In addition, repetitive TMS (rTMS) has long-term effects (e.g. on mood), probably mediated by neurochemical alterations. While long-term safety of rTMS with regard to cognitive functioning is well established from trials exploring its therapeutic efficacy, little is known on whether rTMS can induce changes in cognitive functioning in a time window ranging from minutes to hours, a time in which neurochemical effects correlated with stimulation have been demonstrated. This study examined effects of rTMS on three measures of executive function in healthy subjects who received one single rTMS session (40 trains of 2 s duration 20 Hz stimuli) at the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Compared to a sham condition one week apart, divided attention performance was significantly impaired about 30-60 min after rTMS, while Stroop-interference and performance in the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test was unaffected after rTMS. Repetitive TMS of the left DLPFC, at stimulation parameters used in therapeutic studies, does not lead to a clinically relevant impairment of executive function after stimulation. However, the significant effect on divided attention suggests that cognitive effects of rTMS are not limited to the of acute stimulation, and may possibly reflect known neurochemical alterations induced by rTMS. Sensitive cognitive measures may be useful to trace those short-term effects of rTMS non-invasively in humans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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