Experimental Brain Research

, 191:383 | Cite as

Mapping causal interregional influences with concurrent TMS–fMRI

  • Sven BestmannEmail author
  • Christian C. Ruff
  • Felix Blankenburg
  • Nikolaus Weiskopf
  • Jon Driver
  • John C. Rothwell


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) produces a direct causal effect on brain activity that can now be studied by new approaches that simultaneously combine TMS with neuroimaging methods, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). In this review we highlight recent concurrent TMS–fMRI studies that illustrate how this novel combined technique may provide unique insights into causal interactions among brain regions in humans. We show how fMRI can detect the spatial topography of local and remote TMS effects and how these may vary with psychological factors such as task-state. Concurrent TMS–fMRI may furthermore reveal how the brain adapts to so-called virtual lesions induced by TMS, and the distributed activity changes that may underlie the behavioural consequences often observed during cortical stimulation with TMS. We argue that combining TMS with neuroimaging techniques allows a further step in understanding the physiological underpinnings of TMS, as well as the neural correlated of TMS-evoked consequences on perception and behaviour. This can provide powerful new insights about causal interactions among brain regions in both health and disease that may ultimately lead to developing more efficient protocols for basic research and therapeutic TMS applications.


Effective connectivity Dorsal premotor cortex Top-down control Virtual lesion State-dependence Neuroimaging 





Dynamic causal modelling




Echo-planar imaging


Frontal eye fields


Functional magnetic resonance imaging


Primary motor cortex


Near-infrared spectroscopy


Positron emission tomography


Dorsal premotor cortex


Intraparietal sulcus


Transcranial electrical stimulation


Transcranial direct current stimulation


Transcranial magnetic stimulation


Sense of movement



The support of the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council (MRC) is acknowledged. JD holds a Royal Society Leverhulme Senior Research Fellowship.

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sven Bestmann
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Christian C. Ruff
    • 2
    • 3
  • Felix Blankenburg
    • 2
    • 4
  • Nikolaus Weiskopf
    • 2
  • Jon Driver
    • 2
    • 3
  • John C. Rothwell
    • 1
  1. 1.Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, Institute of NeurologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCLUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.UCL Institute of Cognitive NeuroscienceUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, CharitéBerlinGermany

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