TMS for Cognitive Neuroscience Workshops

A blog post by Dr Joseph Devlin, UCL

It’s well after midnight and I’m on the dance floor of a bar, somewhere in the meat-packing district in New York, when a guy comes up to me, introduces himself and says, “I’d like to ask you about the methods section of your recent TMS paper.” It seems people will go to extreme lengths to get information about TMS!

The next day at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s annual meeting, a colleague informs me matter-of-factly that TMS is rubbish. Apparently her department had bought a TMS system and she had tried it without success; paradigms she had read about failed to produce consistent results.

Unfortunately, her experience is all too common but the problem isn’t TMS – it is the lack of information needed to navigate the minefield that is designing and running a successful TMS experiment.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a method that uses magnetic fields to non-invasively stimulate the brain and it has become an important tool in cognitive neuroscience. However, much of the information needed to run a robust TMS study is missing from journal articles. Instead, it is mostly shared by word-of-mouth among the TMS cognoscenti. As a result, researchers with access to TMS hardware but without local, experienced colleagues are at a serious disadvantage.

To help redress this, Magdalena Sliwinska, Helen Nuttall and I developed a 2.5 day workshop with the aim of sharing all the information needed to incorporate TMS into a cognitive neuroscience research program.

|TMS for cognitive neuroscience, UCL, Joseph Devlin
We combine theory with practical, hands-on sessions to produce an interactive environment focused on sharing the information necessary to design, implement and run successful TMS experiments including:

  • The physical and neurophysiological basis of TMS
  • Designing virtual lesion experiments using both on- and off-line repetitive TMS
  • Eliciting motor evoked potentials (MEPs) and finding motor thresholds
  • Designing functional connectivity experiments using MEPs
  • Combining TMS with other methodologies such as EEG, fMRI and PET
  • Chronometric TMS experiments
  • Using frameless stereotaxy (as well as alternate methods) for localization
  • Practical data collection
  • TMS safety for experimenters and participants
  • Designing your own TMS experiments

Participants leave with a broad understanding of the opportunities and limitations of TMS and a much better appreciation of how TMS can work for their studies – all without stalking dancing neuroscientists. Hopefully, as a community we can move away from the frustration we all feel when “TMS doesn’t work,” improving the open sharing of information and at the same time enhancing the replicability of TMS research.