Noninvasive Stimulation of the Human Brain: Activation of Multiple Cortical Circuits

Neuroscientist. 2018 Jun;24(3):246-260. doi: 10.1177/1073858417717660. Epub 2017 Jun 29.


Noninvasive brain stimulation methods, such as transcranial electric stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation are widely used tools for both basic research and clinical applications. However, the cortical circuits underlying their effects are poorly defined. Here we review the current knowledge based on data mostly coming from experiments performed on human subjects, and also to a lesser extent on rodent or primate models. The data suggest that multiple mechanisms are likely to be involved, such as the direct activation of layer V pyramidal neurons, but also of different types of GABAergic interneurons. In this regard, we propose a key role for a specific type of interneuron known as neurogliaform cell.

Keywords: cortical interneuron; cortical pyramidal neuron; neurogliaform cell; transcranial electrical stimulation; transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*