A review of combined TMS-EEG studies to characterize lasting effects of repetitive TMS and assess their usefulness in cognitive and clinical neuroscience

Brain Topogr. 2010 Jan;22(4):219-32. doi: 10.1007/s10548-009-0115-4. Epub 2009 Oct 28.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has developed into a powerful tool for studying human brain physiology and brain-behavior relations. When applied in sessions of repeated stimulation, TMS can lead to changes in neuronal activity/excitability that outlast the stimulation itself. Such aftereffects are at the heart of the offline TMS protocols in cognitive neuroscience and neurotherapeutics. However, whether these aftereffects are of applied interest critically depends on their magnitude and duration, which should fall within an experimentally or clinically useful range without increasing risks and adverse effects. In this short review, we survey combined TMS-EEG studies to characterize the TMS-aftereffects as revealed by EEG to contribute to the characterization of the most effective and promising repetitive TMS-parameters. With one session of conventional repetitive TMS (of fixed pulse frequency), aftereffects were consistently comparable in magnitude to EEG-changes reported after learning or with fatigue, and were short-lived (<70 min). The few studies using recently developed protocols (such as theta burst stimulation) suggest comparable effect-size but longer effect-durations. Based on the reviewed data, it is expected that TMS-efficacy can be further promoted by repeating TMS-sessions, by using EEG-gated TMS to tailor TMS to current neuronal state, or by other, non-conventional TMS-protocols. Newly emerging developments in offline TMS research for cognitive neuroscience and neurotherapeutics are outlined.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Brain Diseases / therapy*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Humans
  • Periodicity
  • Time Factors
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*