Basic principles of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and repetitive TMS (rTMS)

Ann Phys Rehabil Med. 2015 Sep;58(4):208-213. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2015 Aug 28.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and repetitive TMS (rTMS) are indirect and non-invasive methods used to induce excitability changes in the motor cortex via a wire coil generating a magnetic field that passes through the scalp. Today, TMS has become a key method to investigate brain functioning in humans. Moreover, because rTMS can lead to long-lasting after-effects in the brain, it is thought to be able to induce plasticity. This tool appears to be a potential therapy for neurological and psychiatric diseases. However, the physiological mechanisms underlying the effects induced by TMS and rTMS have not yet been clearly identified. The purpose of the present review is to summarize the main knowledge available for TMS and rTMS to allow for understanding their mode of action and to specify the different parameters that influence their effects. This review takes an inventory of the most-used rTMS paradigms in clinical research and exhibits the hypotheses commonly assumed to explain rTMS after-effects.

Keywords: Cortex; Human; Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Recruitment, Neurophysiological
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*