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Journal Article

Probing rapid network reorganization of motor and language functions via neuromodulation and neuroimaging


Hartwigsen,  Gesa
Lise Meitner Research Group Cognition and Plasticity, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Hartwigsen, G., & Volz, L. J. (2021). Probing rapid network reorganization of motor and language functions via neuromodulation and neuroimaging. NeuroImage, 224: 117449. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117449.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-327C-6
Motor and cognitive functions are organized in large-scale networks in the human brain that interact to enable flexible adaptation of information exchange to ever-changing environmental conditions. In this review, we discuss the unique potential of the consecutive combination of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and functional neuroimaging to probe network organization and reorganization in the healthy and lesioned brain. First, we summarize findings highlighting the flexible (re-) distribution and short-term reorganization in motor and cognitive networks in the healthy brain. Plastic after-effects of rTMS result in large-scale changes on the network level affecting both local and remote activity within the stimulated network as well as interactions between the stimulated and distinct functional networks. While the number of combined rTMS-fMRI studies in patients with brain lesions remains scarce, preliminary evidence suggests that the lesioned brain flexibly (re-)distributes its computational capacities to functionally reorganize impaired brain functions, using a similar set of mechanisms to achieve adaptive network plasticity compared to short-term reorganization observed in the healthy brain after rTMS. In general, both short-term reorganization in the healthy brain and stroke-induced reorganization seem to rely on three general mechanisms of adaptive network plasticity that allow to maintain and recover function: i) interhemispheric changes, including increased contribution of homologous regions in the contralateral hemisphere and increased interhemispheric connectivity, ii) increased interactions between differentially specialized networks and iii) increased contributions of domain-general networks after disruption of more specific functions. These mechanisms may allow for computational flexibility of large-scale neural networks underlying motor and cognitive functions. Future studies should use complementary approaches to address the functional relevance of adaptive network plasticity and further delineate how these general mechanisms interact to enable network flexibility. Besides furthering our neurophysiological insights into brain network interactions, identifying approaches to support and enhance adaptive network plasticity may result in clinically relevant diagnostic and treatment approaches.