On the feasibility of concurrent human TMS-EEG-fMRI measurements.

Journal of neurophysiology

PubMedID: 23221407

Peters JC, Reithler J, Schuhmann T, de Graaf T, Uludag K, Goebel R, Sack AT. On the feasibility of concurrent human TMS-EEG-fMRI measurements. J Neurophysiol. 2013;109(4):1214-27.
Simultaneously combining the complementary assets of EEG, functional MRI (fMRI), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) within one experimental session provides synergetic results, offering insights into brain function that go beyond the scope of each method when used in isolation. The steady increase of concurrent EEG-fMRI, TMS-EEG, and TMS-fMRI studies further underlines the added value of such multimodal imaging approaches. Whereas concurrent EEG-fMRI enables monitoring of brain-wide network dynamics with high temporal and spatial resolution, the combination with TMS provides insights in causal interactions within these networks. Thus the simultaneous use of all three methods would allow studying fast, spatially accurate, and distributed causal interactions in the perturbed system and its functional relevance for intact behavior. Concurrent EEG-fMRI, TMS-EEG, and TMS-fMRI experiments are already technically challenging, and the three-way combination of TMS-EEG-fMRI might yield additional difficulties in terms of hardware strain or signal quality. The present study explored the feasibility of concurrent TMS-EEG-fMRI studies by performing safety and quality assurance tests based on phantom and human data combining existing commercially available hardware. Results revealed that combined TMS-EEG-fMRI measurements were technically feasible, safe in terms of induced temperature changes, allowed functional MRI acquisition with comparable image quality as during concurrent EEG-fMRI or TMS-fMRI, and provided artifact-free EEG before and from 300 ms after TMS pulse application. Based on these empirical findings, we discuss the conceptual benefits of this novel complementary approach to investigate the working human brain and list a number of precautions and caveats to be heeded when setting up such multimodal imaging facilities with current hardware.