What have We Learned from "Perturbing" the Human Cortical Motor System with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation?

Front Hum Neurosci. 2010 Oct 19;4:173. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2010.00173. eCollection 2010.


The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, we will review different approaches that one can use with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to study both its effects on motor behavior and on neural connections in the human brain. Second, we will present evidence obtained in TMS-based studies showing that the dorsal premotor area (PMd), the ventral premotor area (PMv), the supplementary motor area (SMA), and the pre-supplementary motor area (pre-SMA) each have different roles to play in motor behavior. We highlight the importance of the PMd in response selection based on arbitrary cues and in the control of arm movements, the PMv in grasping and in the discrimination of bodily actions, the SMA in movement sequencing and in bimanual coordination, and the pre-SMA in cognitive control. We will also discuss ways in which TMS can be used to chart "true" cerebral reorganization in clinical populations and how TMS might be used as a therapeutic tool to facilitate motor recovery after stroke. We will end our review by discussing some of the methodological challenges and future directions for using this tool in basic and clinical neuroscience.

Keywords: effective connectivity; functional connectivity; functional neuroimaging; motor system; premotor area; stroke recovery; supplementary motor area; transcranial magnetic stimulation.