The effects of high-frequency rTMS over the left DLPFC on cognitive control in young healthy participants

PLoS One. 2017 Jun 14;12(6):e0179430. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179430. eCollection 2017.


A large body of evidence suggests that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is clinically effective in treating neuropsychiatric disorders and multiple sessions are commonly used. However, it is unknown whether multiple sessions of rTMS improve cognitive control, which is a function of the neural circuitry of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC)-cingulate cortex in healthy individuals. In addition, it is still unclear which stages of neural processing are altered by rTMS. In this study, we investigated the effects of high-frequency rTMS on cognitive control and explored the time course changes of cognitive processing after rTMS using event-related potentials (ERPs). For seven consecutive days, 25 young healthy participants underwent one 10-Hz rTMS session per day in which stimulation was applied over the left DLPFC, and a homogeneous participant group of 25 individuals received a sham rTMS treatment. A Stroop task was performed, and an electroencephalogram (EEG) was recorded. The results revealed that multiple sessions of rTMS can decrease reaction time (RTs) under both congruent and incongruent conditions and also increased the amplitudes of both N2 and N450 compared with sham rTMS. The negative correlations between the mean amplitudes of both N2 and N450 and the RTs were found, however, the latter correlation were restricted to incongruent trials and the correlation was enhanced significantly by rTMS. This observation supports the view that high-frequency rTMS over the left DLPFC can not only recruit more neural resources from the prefrontal cortex by inducing an electrophysiologically excitatory effect but also enhance efficiency of resources to deploy for conflict resolution during multiple stages of cognitive control processing in healthy young people.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology*
  • Healthy Volunteers*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Project of Special Foundation for National Basic Research Program of China (2010CB535005), Key medical Program of Hebei Province (zd2013079) and Spark Program for Young Scholar of The First Hospital of Hebei Medical University (XH201705). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.