On the mechanisms of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS): How brain state and baseline performance level determine behavioral effects of TMS

Juha Silvanto, Silvia Bona, Marco Marelli, Zaira Cattaneo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The behavioral effects of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) can change qualitatively when stimulation is preceded by initial state manipulations such as priming or adaptation. In addition, baseline performance level of the participant has been shown to play a role in modulating the impact of TMS. Here we examined the link between these two factors. This was done using data from a previous study using a TMS-priming paradigm, in which, at group level, TMS selectively facilitated targets incongruent with the prime while having no statistically significant effects on other prime-target congruencies. Correlation and linear mixed-effects analyses indicated that, for all prime-target congruencies, a significant linear relationship between baseline performance and the magnitude of the induced TMS effect was present: low levels of baseline performance were associated with TMS-induced facilitations and high baseline performance with impairments. Thus as performance level increased, TMS effects turned from facilitation to impairment. The key finding was that priming shifted the transition from facilitatory to disruptive effects for targets incongruent with the prime, such that TMS-induced facilitations were obtained until a higher level of performance than for other prime-target congruencies. Given that brain state manipulations such as priming operate via modulations of neural excitability, this result is consistent with the view that neural excitability, coupled with non-linear neural effects, underlie behavioral effects of TMS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number741
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMAY
Publication statusPublished - May 17 2018



  • Brain stimulation
  • Excitability
  • Facilitation
  • Priming
  • Visual cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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