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


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.

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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.).

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Correspondence to Sze Chai Kwok.

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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.

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

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Ye, Q., Zou, F., Dayan, M. et al. Individual susceptibility to TMS affirms the precuneal role in meta-memory upon recollection. Brain Struct Funct 224, 2407–2419 (2019).

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