DLPFC stimulation alters working memory related activations and performance: An interleaved TMS-fMRI study

Ryan D. Webler, James Fox, Lisa M. McTeague, Philip C. Burton, Logan Dowdle, Edward Baron Short, Jeffrey J. Borckardt, Xingbao Li, Mark S. George, Ziad Nahas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Findings from correlative neuroimaging studies link increased frontoparietal network (FPN) activation and default mode network (DMN) deactivation to enhanced high cognitive demand processing. To causally investigate FPN-DMN contributions to high cognitive demand processing, the current interleaved TMS-fMRI study simultaneously manipulated and indexed neural activity while tracking cognitive performance during high and low cognitive load conditions. Methods: Twenty participants completed an n-back task consisting of four conditions (0-back, 0-backTMS, 2-back, 2-backTMS) while undergoing interleaved TMS-fMRI. During TMS concurrent with n-back blocks, TMS single pulses were delivered to the left DLPFC at 100% motor-threshold every 2.4s. Results: TMS delivered during high cognitive load strengthened cognitive processing. FPN node activations and DMN node deactivations were increased in the high versus low cognitive load TMS condition. Contrary to our hypothesis, TMS did not increase high load related activation in FPN nodes. However, as hypothesized, increased DMN node deactivations emerged as a function of TMS during high load (right angular gyrus) and from interactions between cognitive load and TMS (right middle temporal gyrus). Load and TMS combined to dampen activation within the DMN at trend level (p =.058). Deactivation in a dorsomedial DMN node was associated with TMS driven improvements in high load cognitive processing. Conclusions: Exogenous perturbation of the DLPFC via single pulse TMS amplified DMN node deactivations and enhanced high cognitive demand processing. Neurobehavioral findings linking these effects hint at a promising, albeit preliminary, cognitive control substrate requiring replication in higher-powered studies that use control stimulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)823-832
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Stimulation
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The current work was conducted within and supported by the Brain Stimulation laboratory at MUSC. The authors would like to thank Dr. Colleen Hanlon for her input regarding neuroimaging pre-processing and analyses.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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