Revisiting the Focality of Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation – Implications for Studies of Human Cognition. [Review]

SOURCE: Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 149:105154, 2023 Jun.

AUTHORS: Numssen O; van der Burght CL; Hartwigsen G

ABSTRACT: Non-invasive brain stimulation techniques are popular tools to investigate brain function in health and disease. Although transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is widely used in cognitive neuroscience research to probe causal structure-function relationships, studies often yield inconclusive results. To improve the effectiveness of TMS studies, we argue that the cognitive neuroscience community needs to revise the stimulation focality principle – the spatial resolution with which TMS can differentially stimulate cortical regions. In the motor domain, TMS can differentiate between cortical muscle representations of adjacent fingers. However, this high degree of spatial specificity cannot be obtained in all cortical regions due to the influences of cortical folding patterns on the TMS-induced electric field. The region-dependent focality of TMS should be assessed a priori to estimate the experimental feasibility. Post-hoc simulations allow modeling of the relationship between cortical stimulation exposure and behavioral modulation by integrating data across stimulation sites or subjects.