Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation of the Brain: Mechanisms from Animal and Experimental Models

Neuroscientist. 2017 Feb;23(1):82-94. doi: 10.1177/1073858415618897. Epub 2016 Jul 9.


Since the development of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in the early 1980s, a range of repetitive TMS (rTMS) protocols are now available to modulate neuronal plasticity in clinical and non-clinical populations. However, despite the wide application of rTMS in humans, the mechanisms underlying rTMS-induced plasticity remain uncertain. Animal and in vitro models provide an adjunct method of investigating potential synaptic and non-synaptic mechanisms of rTMS-induced plasticity. This review summarizes in vitro experimental studies, in vivo studies with intact rodents, and preclinical models of selected neurological disorders-Parkinson's disease, depression, and stroke. We suggest that these basic research findings can contribute to the understanding of how rTMS-induced plasticity can be modulated, including novel mechanisms such as neuroprotection and neurogenesis that have significant therapeutic potential.

Keywords: Parkinson’s disease; animal models; depression; rTMS; stroke; synaptic plasticity; theta burst stimulation.