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Effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation on the brain

New study of Dirk Jancke published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America)

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Visualization of TMS-enhanced cortical plasticity, (co) Jancke, RUB

Dirk Jancke and his team show how transcranial magnetic stimulation TMS affects the functional interconnectivity of neurons.  The procedure facilitates reorganization of connections between neurons which could be useful for therapies.

TMS is non-invasive and painless. It is being used as a treatment for a number of brain diseases such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia, but only little research has been done on how  TMS works exactly. The current study by Dr. Dirk Jancke's team at the Bochum Optical Imaging Lab at the Ruhr University Bochum shows that TMS stimulation makes nerve cell connections in the visual cortex of the brain more susceptible to reorganization processes.

Examining the effects on cortical maps in the visual cortex

The researchers investigated how TMS affects the organization of so-called orientation maps in the visual part of the brain. Those maps are partly genetically determined and partly shaped by the interaction with our surroundings. In the visual cortex, for example, neurons respond to contrast edges of certain orientations, which typically constitute boundaries of objects. Certain cells prefer to respond to stimuli with a certain orientation, whereby similar angles are processed in adjacent brain regions.

The team employed high frequency TMS and compared the behavior of neurons to visual stimuli with a specific angular orientation before and after the procedure. The result: After the magnetic stimulation the neurons responded more variably, i.e. their preference for a particular orientation was less pronounced than before the TMS. “You could say that after the TMS the neurons were somewhat undecided and hence, potentially open to new tasks”, explains Dirk Jancke. “Therefore, we reasoned that the treatment provides us with a time window for the induction of plastic processes during which neurons can change their functional preference.”

(Text: Ruhr University Bochum)

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Publication

Vladislav Kozyrev, Robert Staadt, Ulf Eysel, Dirk Jancke: TMS-induced neuronal plasticity enables targeted remodeling of visual cortical maps, in: PNAS, 2018, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1802798115

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