• Tower of London;
  • repetitive TMS;
  • functional MRI


The dorsal frontal-striatal circuit is implicated in executive functions, such as planning. The Tower of London task, a planning task, in combination with off-line low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), was used to investigate whether interfering with dorsolateral prefrontal function would modulate executive performance, mimicking dorsal frontal-striatal dysfunction as found in neuropsychiatric disorders. Eleven healthy controls (seven females; mean age 25.5 years) were entered in a cross-over design: two single-session treatments of low-frequency (1 Hz) rTMS (vs. sham rTMS) for 20 min on the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Directly following the off-line rTMS treatment, the Tower of London task was performed during MRI measurements. The low-frequency rTMS treatment impaired performance, but only when the subjects had not performed the task before: we found a TMS condition-by-order effect, such that real TMS treatment in the first session led to significantly more errors (P = 0.032), whereas this TMS effect was not present in subjects who received real TMS in the second session. At the neural level, rTMS resulted in decreased activation during the rTMS versus sham condition in prefrontal brain regions (i.e., premotor, dorsolateral prefrontal and anterior prefrontal cortices) and visuospatial brain regions (i.e., precuneus/cuneus and inferior parietal cortex). The results show that low-frequency off-line rTMS on the DLPFC resulted in decreased task-related activations in the frontal and visuospatial regions during the performance of the Tower of London task, with a behavioral effect only when task experience is limited. Hum Brain Mapp, 2013. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.