Brain Structure and Function

, Volume 224, Issue 7, pp 2407–2419 | Cite as

Individual susceptibility to TMS affirms the precuneal role in meta-memory upon recollection

  • Qun Ye
  • Futing Zou
  • Michael Dayan
  • Hakwan Lau
  • Yi Hu
  • Sze Chai KwokEmail author
Original Article


A recent virtual-lesion study using inhibitory repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) confirmed the causal behavioral relevance of the precuneus in the evaluation of one’s own memory performance (aka mnemonic metacognition). This study’s goal is to elucidate how these TMS-induced neuromodulatory effects might relate to the neural correlates and be modulated by individual anatomical profiles in relation to meta-memory. In a within-subjects design, we assessed the impact of 20-min rTMS over the precuneus, compared to the vertex, across three magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) neuro-profiles on 18 healthy subjects during a memory versus a perceptual task. Task-based functional MRI revealed that BOLD signal magnitude in the precuneus is associated with variation in individual meta-memory efficiency. Moreover, individuals with higher resting-state functional connectivity (rs-fcMRI) between the precuneus and the hippocampus, or smaller gray matter volume in the stimulated precuneal region exhibit considerably higher vulnerability to the TMS effect. These effects were not observed in the perceptual domain. Thus, we provide compelling evidence in outlining a possible circuit encompassing the precuneus and its mnemonic midbrain neighbor the hippocampus at the service of realizing our meta-awareness during memory recollection of episodic details.


  • TMS disrupts the correlation between BOLD activity and meta-memory ability.

  • TMS effect is modulated by rs-fcMRI between precuneus and hippocampus.

  • Individuals with greater precuneal gray matter volume more immune to TMS effect.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation Magnetic resonance imaging Posterior parietal cortex Metacognition Episodic memory 



We thank Elena Makovac for her advice on implementing VBM analysis.


This work was supported by Ministry of Education of PRC Humanities and Social Sciences Research grant 16YJC190006, STCSM Natural Science Foundation of Shanghai 16ZR1410200, Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities 2018ECNU-HWFW007, NYU Shanghai and NYU-ECNU Institute of Brain and Cognitive Science at NYU Shanghai (S.C.K.); National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health grant R01NS088628 (H.L.); National Natural Science Foundation of China 31872783 (Y.H.).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors has any conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants have been approved by the local ethics committee of the institute (University Committee on Human Research Protection of East China Normal University, UCHRP-ECNU) and are in agreement with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments.

Informed consent

All participants gave their informed consent to participate in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Shanghai Key Laboratory of Brain Functional Genomics, Key Laboratory of Brain Functional Genomics Ministry of Education, School of Psychology and Cognitive ScienceEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Shanghai Key Laboratory of Magnetic ResonanceEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  3. 3.NYU-ECNU Institute of Brain and Cognitive Science at NYU ShanghaiShanghaiChina
  4. 4.Human Neuroscience Platform, Foundation Campus Biotech GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyUniversity of California-Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  6. 6.Brain Research InstituteUniversity of California-Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  7. 7.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Hong KongHong KongPeople’s Republic of China
  8. 8.State Key Laboratory for Brain and Cognitive SciencesUniversity of Hong KongHong KongPeople’s Republic of China

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