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J Vis Exp. 2014 Jul 18;(89). doi: 10.3791/51735.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation for investigating causal brain-behavioral relationships and their time course.

Author information

1
Cognitive, Perceptual & Brain Sciences, University College London; magdalena.sliwinska.09@ucl.ac.uk.
2
Cognitive, Perceptual & Brain Sciences, University College London.

Abstract

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a safe, non-invasive brain stimulation technique that uses a strong electromagnet in order to temporarily disrupt information processing in a brain region, generating a short-lived "virtual lesion." Stimulation that interferes with task performance indicates that the affected brain region is necessary to perform the task normally. In other words, unlike neuroimaging methods such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that indicate correlations between brain and behavior, TMS can be used to demonstrate causal brain-behavior relations. Furthermore, by varying the duration and onset of the virtual lesion, TMS can also reveal the time course of normal processing. As a result, TMS has become an important tool in cognitive neuroscience. Advantages of the technique over lesion-deficit studies include better spatial-temporal precision of the disruption effect, the ability to use participants as their own control subjects, and the accessibility of participants. Limitations include concurrent auditory and somatosensory stimulation that may influence task performance, limited access to structures more than a few centimeters from the surface of the scalp, and the relatively large space of free parameters that need to be optimized in order for the experiment to work. Experimental designs that give careful consideration to appropriate control conditions help to address these concerns. This article illustrates these issues with TMS results that investigate the spatial and temporal contributions of the left supramarginal gyrus (SMG) to reading.

PMID:
25079670
PMCID:
PMC4219631
DOI:
10.3791/51735
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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