Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a widely used noninvasive brain stimulation method capable of inducing plastic reorganisation of cortical circuits in humans. Changes in neural activity following TMS are often attributed to synaptic plasticity via process of long-term potentiation and depression (LTP/LTD). However, the precise way in which synaptic processes such as LTP/LTD modulate the activity of large populations of neurons, as stimulated en masse by TMS, are unclear. The recent development of biophysical models, which incorporate the physiological properties of TMS-induced plasticity mathematically, provide an excellent framework for reconciling synaptic and macroscopic plasticity. This article overviews the TMS paradigms used to induce plasticity, and their limitations. It then describes the development of biophysically-based numerical models of the mechanisms underlying LTP/LTD on population-level neuronal activity, and the application of these models to TMS plasticity paradigms, including theta burst and paired associative stimulation. Finally, it outlines how modeling can complement experimental work to improve mechanistic understandings and optimize outcomes of TMS-induced plasticity.
- Biophysical modeling
- Paired associative stimulation
- Theta burst stimulation
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation