Enhancement of Neuromodulation with Novel Pulse Shapes Generated by Controllable Pulse Parameter Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

Brain Stimul. 2016 Jan-Feb;9(1):39-47. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2015.08.013. Epub 2015 Sep 1.


Background: Standard repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) devices generate bidirectional biphasic sinusoidal pulses that are energy efficient, but may be less effective than monophasic pulses that induce a more unidirectional electric field. To enable pulse shape optimization, we developed a controllable pulse parameter TMS (cTMS) device.

Objective: We quantified changes in cortical excitability produced by conventional sinusoidal bidirectional pulses and by three rectangular-shaped cTMS pulses, one bidirectional and two unidirectional (in opposite directions), and compared their efficacy in modulating motor evoked potentials (MEPs) produced by stimulation of motor cortex.

Methods: Thirteen healthy subjects completed four sessions of 1 Hz rTMS of the left motor cortex. In each session, the rTMS electric field pulse had one of the four shapes. Excitability changes due to rTMS were measured by applying probe TMS pulses before and after rTMS, and comparing resultant MEP amplitudes. Separately, we measured the latency of the MEPs evoked by each of the four pulses.

Results: While the three cTMS pulses generated significant mean inhibitory effects in the subject group, the conventional biphasic cosine pulses did not. The strongest inhibition resulted from a rectangular unidirectional pulse with dominant induced current in the posterior-anterior direction. The MEP latency depended significantly on the pulse shape.

Conclusions: The pulse shape is an important factor in rTMS-induced neuromodulation. The standard cosine biphasic pulse showed the smallest effect on cortical excitability, while the greatest inhibition was observed for an asymmetric, unidirectional, rectangular pulse. Differences in MEP latency across the various rTMS pulse shapes suggest activation of distinct subsets of cortical microcircuitry.

Keywords: Inhibitory; Latency; Low frequency; Pulse shape; Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation; cTMS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*