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J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2017 Feb;124(Suppl 1):139-152. doi: 10.1007/s00702-015-1491-4. Epub 2015 Dec 11.

Effects of prefrontal rTMS on autonomic reactions to affective pictures.

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Department of Psychiatry, Neurology, Psychosomatics, and Psychotherapy in Childhood and Adolescence, University Medical Center of Rostock, University of Rostock, Gehlsheimer Straße 20, 18147, Rostock, Germany.
Laboratory for Biological and Personality Psychology, Department of Psychology, Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg, Stefan-Meier-Straße 8, 79104, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.
Freiburg Brain Imaging, University Medical Center, Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg, Breisacher Str. 64, 79106, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.
Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center of Rostock, Gehlsheimer Straße 20, 18147, Rostock, Germany.


Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) can modulate the excitability of stimulated cortical areas, such as prefrontal areas involved in emotion regulation. Low frequency (LF) rTMS is expected to have inhibitory effects on prefrontal regions, and thereby should disinhibit limbic activity, resulting in enhanced emotional and autonomic reactions. For high frequency (HF) rTMS, the opposite pattern might be assumed. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of different rTMS frequencies applied to the right dlPFC on autonomic functions and on emotional perception. In a crossover design, two groups of 20 healthy young women were either stimulated with one session of LF rTMS (1 Hz) or one session of HF rTMS (10 Hz), compared to sham stimulation. We assessed phasic cardiac responses (PCR), skin conductance reactions (SCR), and emotional appraisal of emotional pictures as well as recognition memory after each rTMS application. After LF rTMS, PCR (heart rate deceleration) during presentation of pictures with negative and neutral valence was significantly increased compared to the presentation of positive pictures. In contrast, the modulatory effect of picture valence and arousal on the cardiac orienting response was absent after HF rTMS. Our results suggest that frontal LF rTMS indirectly activates the ANS via inhibition of the right dlPFC activity, likely by enhancing the sensory processing or attention to aversive and neutral stimuli.


Autonomic nervous system; Heart rate; Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation; Skin conductance; dlPFC; rTMS

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