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Front Syst Neurosci. 2010 Aug 12;4. pii: 40. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2010.00040. eCollection 2010.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation and connectivity mapping: tools for studying the neural bases of brain disorders.

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Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Yale University School of Medicine New Haven, CT, USA.


There has been an increasing emphasis on characterizing pathophysiology underlying psychiatric and neurological disorders in terms of altered neural connectivity and network dynamics. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) provides a unique opportunity for investigating connectivity in the human brain. TMS allows researchers and clinicians to directly stimulate cortical regions accessible to electromagnetic coils positioned on the scalp. The induced activation can then propagate through long-range connections to other brain areas. Thus, by identifying distal regions activated during TMS, researchers can infer connectivity patterns in the healthy human brain and can examine how those patterns may be disrupted in patients with different brain disorders. Conversely, connectivity maps derived using neuroimaging methods can identify components of a dysfunctional network. Nodes in this dysfunctional network accessible as targets for TMS by virtue of their proximity to the scalp may then permit TMS-induced alterations of components of the network not directly accessible to TMS via propagated effects. Thus TMS can provide a portal for accessing and altering neural dynamics in networks that are widely distributed anatomically. Finally, when long-term modulation of network dynamics is induced by trains of repetitive TMS, changes in functional connectivity patterns can be studied in parallel with changes in patient symptoms. These correlational data can elucidate neural mechanisms underlying illness and recovery. In this review, we focus on the application of these approaches to the study of psychiatric and neurological illnesses.


brain disorders; connectivity; neurology; psychiatry; resting; stimulation; transcranial magnetic stimulation

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