The Clinical Utility of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Determining Hemispheric Dominance for Language: A Magnetoencephalography Comparison Study

J Clin Neurophysiol. 2020 Mar;37(2):90-103. doi: 10.1097/WNP.0000000000000499.


Purpose: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has recently emerged as a noninvasive alternative to the intracarotid sodium amytal (Wada) procedure for establishing hemispheric dominance (HD) for language. The accuracy of HD determined by TMS was examined by comparing against the HD derived by magnetoencephalography (MEG), a prominent clinical technique with excellent concordance with the Wada procedure.

Methods: Sixty-seven patients (54 patients ≤18 years) underwent language mapping with TMS and MEG as part of clinical epilepsy and tumor presurgical assessment. Language was mapped in MEG during an auditory word recognition paradigm, and a laterality index was calculated using the number of dipoles and their spatial extent in the two hemispheres. Transcranial magnetic stimulation language mapping was performed as patients performed a naming task, and TMS-induced speech disruptions were recorded during 5-Hz TMS applied to anterior and posterior language cortices. Transcranial magnetic stimulation laterality index was estimated using the number and type of speech disruption in the language regions of each hemisphere.

Results: Transcranial magnetic stimulation and MEG estimates of HD were concordant in 42 (63%) patients, resulting in a sensitivity of 74% and a specificity of 72%. The overall accuracy of TMS was 73%, equivalent to an odds ratio of 7.35.

Conclusions: In this first large-scale comparative study in a clinical population, we demonstrate that TMS is a safe and reliable noninvasive tool in determining HD for language. Improving the accuracy of TMS by optimizing TMS parameters and improving task choice will further facilitate the use of TMS to characterize language function, especially in pediatrics.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Epilepsy / diagnostic imaging
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Magnetoencephalography / methods*
  • Male
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Young Adult