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The study of noninvasive brain stimulation using molecular brain imaging: A systematic review

NeuroImage. 2020;219:117023


Journal Homepage

Journal Title: NeuroImage

ISSN: 1053-8119 (Print); 1095-9572 (Online)

Publisher: Elsevier

LCC Subject Category: Medicine: Internal medicine: Neurosciences. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

Full-text formats available: PDF, HTML



Sara Tremblay (Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada; Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada; Department of Neuroscience, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada; Corresponding author. Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research, 1145 Carling Ave, Ottawa, ON, K1Z 7K4, Canada.)

Lauri Tuominen (Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada; Department of Neuroscience, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada)

Vanessa Zayed (Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada)

Alvaro Pascual-Leone (Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, Hebrew Senior Life; And Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA; Guttmann Brain Health Institute, Institute Guttmann, Universitat Autonoma, Barcelona, Spain)

Juho Joutsa (Turku Brain and Mind Center, University of Turku, Turku, Finland; Turku University Hospital, Turku, Finland; Corresponding author. Turku Brain and Mind Center, 20014, University of Turku, Finland.)


Blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 25 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Electromagnetic noninvasive brain stimulation (NIBS) techniques, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial electrical stimulation, are widely used in research and represent emerging clinical treatment options for many brain disorders. The brain-wide neurobiological effects of electromagnetic NIBS, however, are not yet fully characterized. The combination of NIBS with molecular brain imaging is a powerful tool for the investigation of these effects. Here, we conducted a systematic review of all published studies investigating the effects of all forms of electromagnetic NIBS using molecular imaging (positron emission tomography, single photon emission computed tomography). A meta-analysis was also conducted when sufficient studies employed similar methodologies. A total of 239 articles were identified, of which 71 were included in the review. Information was extracted about the study design, NIBS parameters, imaging parameters, and observed local and remote effects caused by the stimulation. Regional cerebral blood flow and glucose metabolism were the most common outcome measures, followed by dopamine neurotransmission. While the vast majority of studies obtained remote effects of stimulation in interconnected regions, approximately half of the studies showed local effects at the stimulation site. Our meta-analysis on motor cortex stimulation also showed consistent remote effects. The literature review demonstrates that although the local effects of NIBS as captured by molecular imaging are sometimes modest, there are robust remote changes in brain activity and neurotransmitter function. Finally, we discuss the potential pitfalls and methodological issues and identify gaps in the current knowledge that could be addressed using these techniques.