Modeling the effects of noninvasive transcranial brain stimulation at the biophysical, network, and cognitive Level

Gesa Hartwigsen, Til Ole Bergmann, Damian Marc Herz, Steffen Angstmann, Anke Karabanov, Estelle Raffin, Axel Thielscher, Hartwig Roman Siebner

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Noninvasive transcranial brain stimulation (NTBS) is widely used to elucidate the contribution of different brain regions to various cognitive functions. Here we present three modeling approaches that are informed by functional or structural brain mapping or behavior profiling and discuss how these approaches advance the scientific potential of NTBS as an interventional tool in cognitive neuroscience. (i) Leveraging the anatomical information provided by structural imaging, the electric field distribution in the brain can be modeled and simulated. Biophysical modeling approaches generate testable predictions regarding the impact of interindividual variations in cortical anatomy on the injected electric fields or the influence of the orientation of current flow on the physiological stimulation effects. (ii) Functional brain mapping of the spatiotemporal neural dynamics during cognitive tasks can be used to construct causal network models. These models can identify spatiotemporal changes in effective connectivity during distinct cognitive states and allow for examining how effective connectivity is shaped by NTBS. (iii) Modeling the NTBS effects based on neuroimaging can be complemented by behavior-based cognitive models that exploit variations in task performance. For instance, NTBS-induced changes in response speed and accuracy can be explicitly modeled in a cognitive framework accounting for the speed-accuracy trade-off. This enables to dissociate between behavioral NTBS effects that emerge in the context of rapid automatic responses or in the context of slow deliberate responses. We argue that these complementary modeling approaches facilitate the use of NTBS as a means of dissecting the causal architecture of cognitive systems of the human brain.
Original languageEnglish
Book seriesProgress in Brain Research
Pages (from-to)261-287
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Drift diffusion modeling
  • Dynamic causal modeling
  • Electric field calculations
  • Electroencephalography
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Plasticity
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • Virtual lesion

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