Is selective primary visual cortex stimulation achievable with TMS?

Hum Brain Mapp. 2012 Mar;33(3):652-65. doi: 10.1002/hbm.21237. Epub 2011 Mar 17.


The primary visual cortex (V1) has been the target of stimulation in a number of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) studies. In this study, we estimated the actual sites of stimulation by modeling the cortical location of the TMS-induced electric field when participants reported visual phosphenes or scotomas. First, individual retinotopic areas were identified by multifocal functional magnetic resonance imaging (mffMRI). Second, during the TMS stimulation, the cortical stimulation sites were derived from electric field modeling. When an external anatomical landmark for V1 was used (2 cm above inion), the cortical stimulation landed in various functional areas in different individuals, the dorsal V2 being the most affected area at the group level. When V1 was specifically targeted based on the individual mffMRI data, V1 could be selectively stimulated in half of the participants. In the rest, the selective stimulation of V1 was obstructed by the intermediate position of the dorsal V2. We conclude that the selective stimulation of V1 is possible only if V1 happens to be favorably located in the individual anatomy. Selective and successful targeting of TMS pulses to V1 requires MRI-navigated stimulation, selection of participants and coil positions based on detailed retinotopic maps of individual functional anatomy, and computational modeling of the TMS-induced electric field distribution in the visual cortex. It remains to be resolved whether even more selective stimulation of V1 could be achieved by adjusting the coil orientation according to sulcal orientation of the target site.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Phosphenes / physiology
  • Scotoma
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*
  • Visual Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult