Concurrent TMS-fMRI for Causal Network Perturbation and Proof of Target Engagement


Neuroimage. 237:118093, 2021 08 15.

Bergmann TO; Varatheeswaran R; Hanlon CA; Madsen KH; Thielscher A; Siebner HR

The experimental manipulation of neural activity by neurostimulation techniques overcomes the inherent limitations of correlative recordings, enabling the researcher to investigate causal brain-behavior relationships. But only when stimulation and recordings are combined, the direct impact of the stimulation on neural activity can be evaluated. In humans, this can be achieved non-invasively through the concurrent combination of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Concurrent TMS-fMRI allows the assessment of the neurovascular responses evoked by TMS with excellent spatial resolution and full-brain coverage. This enables the functional mapping of both local and remote network effects of TMS in cortical as well as deep subcortical structures, offering unique opportunities for basic research and clinical applications. The purpose of this review is to introduce the reader to this powerful tool. We will introduce the technical challenges and state-of-the art solutions and provide a comprehensive overview of the existing literature and the available experimental approaches. We will highlight the unique insights that can be gained from concurrent TMS-fMRI, including the state-dependent assessment of neural responsiveness and inter-regional effective connectivity, the demonstration of functional target engagement, and the systematic evaluation of stimulation parameters. We will also discuss how concurrent TMS-fMRI during a behavioral task can help to link behavioral TMS effects to changes in neural network activity and to identify peripheral co-stimulation confounds. Finally, we will review the use of concurrent TMS-fMRI for developing TMS treatments of psychiatric and neurological disorders and suggest future improvements for further advancing the application of concurrent TMS-fMRI.