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Keywords:

  • long-term depression;
  • long-term neuromodulation;
  • plasticity;
  • posterior parietal cortex;
  • spatial neglect;
  • visuospatial attention

Abstract

A single session of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) can induce behavioural effects that outlast the duration of the stimulation train itself (off-line effects). Series of rTMS sessions on consecutive days are being used for therapeutic applications in a variety of disorders and are assumed to lead to the build-up of cumulative effects. However, no studies have carefully assessed this notion. In the present study we applied 30 daily sessions of 1 Hz rTMS (continuous train of 20 min) to repeatedly modulate activity in the posterior parietal cortex and associated neural systems in two intact cats. We assessed the effect on visuospatial orientation before and after each stimulation session. Cumulative sessions of rTMS progressively induced visuospatial neglect-like ‘after-effects’ of greater magnitude (from 5–10% to 40–50% error levels) and increasing spatial extent (from 90–75° to 45–30° eccentricity locations), affecting the visual hemifield contralateral to the stimulated hemisphere. Nonetheless, 60 min after each TMS session, visual detection–localization abilities repeatedly returned to baseline levels. Furthermore, no lasting behavioural effect could be demonstrated at any time across the study, when subjects were tested 1 or 24 h post-rTMS. We conclude that the past history of periodically cumulative rTMS sessions builds up a lasting ‘memory’, resulting in increased facilitation to subsequent TMS-induced disruptions. Such a phenomenon allows a behavioural effect of progressively higher magnitude, but equal duration, in response to individual TMS interventions.