We combined repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the functional relevance of parietal cortex activation during the performance of visuospatial tasks. fMRI provides information about local transient changes in neuronal activation during behavioural or cognitive tasks. Information on the functional relevance of this activation was obtained by using rTMS to induce temporary regional deactivations. We thereby turned the physiological parameter of brain activity into an independent variable controlled and manipulated by the experimenter and investigated its effect on the performance of the cognitive tasks within a controlled experimental design. We investigated cognitive tasks that were performed on the same visual material but differed in the demand on visuospatial functions. For the visuospatial tasks we found a selective enhancement of fMRI signal in the superior parietal lobule (SPL) and a selective impairment of performance after rTMS to this region in comparison to a control group. We could thus show that the parietal cortex is functionally important for the execution of spatial judgements on visually presented material and that TMS as an experimental tool has the potential to interfere with higher cognitive functions such as visuospatial information processing.
Sack, A. T., Hubl, D., Prvulovic, D., Formisano, E., Jandl, M., Zanella, F. E., Maurer, K., Goebel, R. W., Dierks, T., & Linden, D. E. (2002). The experimental combination of rTMS and fMRI reveals the functional relevance of parietal cortex for visuospatial functions. Cognitive Brain Research, 13, 85-93. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0926-6410(01)00087-8