Front Hum Neurosci. 2022 Dec 15;16:1050605. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2022.1050605. eCollection 2022.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) allows for the direct activation of neurons in the human neocortex and has proven to be fundamental for causal hypothesis testing in cognitive neuroscience. By administering TMS concurrently with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), the effect of cortical TMS on activity in distant cortical and subcortical structures can be quantified by varying the levels of TMS output intensity. However, TMS generates significant fluctuations in the fMRI time series, and their complex interaction warrants caution before interpreting findings. We present the methodological challenges of concurrent TMS-fMRI and a guide to minimize induced artifacts in experimental design and post-processing. Our study targeted two frontal-striatal circuits: primary motor cortex (M1) projections to the putamen and lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) projections to the caudate in healthy human participants. We found that TMS parametrically increased the BOLD signal in the targeted region and subcortical projections as a function of stimulation intensity. Together, this work provides practical steps to overcome common challenges with concurrent TMS-fMRI and demonstrates how TMS-fMRI can be used to investigate functional brain networks.