Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 180, Issue 4, pp 583–593 | Cite as

Transcranial magnetic stimulation and synaptic plasticity: experimental framework and human models

  • Gary W. Thickbroom


Interest in the therapeutic potential of non-invasive human brain stimulation has been boosted by an improved understanding of the mechanisms of synaptic plasticity and the stimulus protocols that can induce plasticity in experimental preparations. A range of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) protocols are available that have the potential to mimic these experimental protocols in the human. Repetitive TMS emulates aspects of activity-dependent plasticity, and theta-burst refinements may be able to take into account excitatory and inhibitory networks, paired associative stimulation can extend network considerations to incorporate sensorimotor integration, inhibitory networks may be targeted with short-interval paired stimulation and finally even the precision of spike-timing dependent plasticity may be accessible through I-(indirect)wave dynamics. This review will provide a synthesis of current concepts of activity- and time-dependent plasticity and their homeostatic regulation based on experimental studies, and relate these concepts to the promising range of TMS interventions that are available to target human brain plasticity.


TMS Synaptic plasticity Hebbian mechanisms LTP LTD 



I am indebted to Frank Mastaglia for suggesting this review, and for encouragement, comment, and welcome suggestions. I thank my colleagues and students who have contributed at a number of levels, and in particular Julian Rodrigues for the interesting discussions of plasticity mechanisms. In preparing this review I have benefited from several excellent and considerably more thorough reviews of the topics covered, and these I have referred to in the body of the text.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Neuromuscular and Neurological Disorders, M518University of Western AustraliaNedlandsAustralia

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