Watching Individual Neurons Respond During Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

natureneuroTranscranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is used to treat refractory major depression. Until now, there was no way of knowing exactly what changes were taking place in the brain as a result of treatment. Duke University neuroscientists and engineers have developed a way to measure the response of an individual neuron to TMS.

Measuring neural responses during the procedure has been difficult as the comparatively tiny activity of a single neuron is lost in the tidal wave of current being generated by TMS. The research team at Duke engineered new hardware that could separate the TMS current from the neural response, which is thousands of times smaller. They were able to focus in and successfully recorded the action potentials of an individual neuron moments after TMS pulses and observed changes in its activity that significantly differed from activity following placebo treatments.

This study is published in Nature Neuroscience, June 29, 2014

Mueller, JK et al.
Nature Neuroscience