Ten Years of Theta Burst Stimulation in Humans: Established Knowledge, Unknowns and Prospects

Brain Stimul. 2016 May-Jun;9(3):323-335. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2016.01.006. Epub 2016 Jan 27.


Background/objectives: Over the last ten years, an increasing number of authors have used the theta burst stimulation (TBS) protocol to investigate long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD)-like plasticity non-invasively in the primary motor cortex (M1) in healthy humans and in patients with various types of movement disorders. We here provide a comprehensive review of the LTP/LTD-like plasticity induced by TBS in the human M1.

Methods: A workgroup of researchers expert in this research field review and discuss critically ten years of experimental evidence from TBS studies in humans and in animal models. The review also includes the discussion of studies assessing responses to TBS in patients with movement disorders.

Main findings/discussion: We discuss experimental studies applying TBS over the M1 or in other cortical regions functionally connected to M1 in healthy subjects and in patients with various types of movement disorders. We also review experimental evidence coming from TBS studies in animals. Finally, we clarify the status of TBS as a possible new non-invasive therapy aimed at improving symptoms in various neurological disorders.

Keywords: Animal model; Plasticity; Primary motor cortex; Theta burst stimulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology*
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology
  • Movement Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Movement Disorders / therapy
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation* / methods