Studying and modifying brain function with non-invasive brain stimulation

Nat Neurosci. 2018 Feb;21(2):174-187. doi: 10.1038/s41593-017-0054-4. Epub 2018 Jan 8.


In the past three decades, our understanding of brain-behavior relationships has been significantly shaped by research using non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) techniques. These methods allow non-invasive and safe modulation of neural processes in the healthy brain, enabling researchers to directly study how experimentally altered neural activity causally affects behavior. This unique property of NIBS methods has, on the one hand, led to groundbreaking findings on the brain basis of various aspects of behavior and has raised interest in possible clinical and practical applications of these methods. On the other hand, it has also triggered increasingly critical debates about the properties and possible limitations of these methods. In this review, we discuss these issues, clarify the challenges associated with the use of currently available NIBS techniques for basic research and practical applications, and provide recommendations for studies using NIBS techniques to establish brain-behavior relationships.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation / instrumentation
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation / methods*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / instrumentation
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*