Combining non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation with neuroimaging and electrophysiology: Current approaches and future perspectives

Neuroimage. 2016 Oct 15:140:4-19. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.02.012. Epub 2016 Feb 13.


Non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation (NTBS) techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial current stimulation (TCS) are important tools in human systems and cognitive neuroscience because they are able to reveal the relevance of certain brain structures or neuronal activity patterns for a given brain function. It is nowadays feasible to combine NTBS, either consecutively or concurrently, with a variety of neuroimaging and electrophysiological techniques. Here we discuss what kind of information can be gained from combined approaches, which often are technically demanding. We argue that the benefit from this combination is twofold. Firstly, neuroimaging and electrophysiology can inform subsequent NTBS, providing the required information to optimize where, when, and how to stimulate the brain. Information can be achieved both before and during the NTBS experiment, requiring consecutive and concurrent applications, respectively. Secondly, neuroimaging and electrophysiology can provide the readout for neural changes induced by NTBS. Again, using either concurrent or consecutive applications, both "online" NTBS effects immediately following the stimulation and "offline" NTBS effects outlasting plasticity-inducing NTBS protocols can be assessed. Finally, both strategies can be combined to close the loop between measuring and modulating brain activity by means of closed-loop brain state-dependent NTBS. In this paper, we will provide a conceptual framework, emphasizing principal strategies and highlighting promising future directions to exploit the benefits of combining NTBS with neuroimaging or electrophysiology.

Keywords: Closed-loop; Electrophysiology; Neuroimaging; Non-invasive transcranial brain stimulation (NTBS); Transcranial current stimulation (TCS); Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / trends*
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurofeedback*
  • Neuroimaging / trends*
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation / trends*