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Journal Article

Noninvasive brain stimulation: Multiple effects on cognition


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., & Silvanto, J. (2022). Noninvasive brain stimulation: Multiple effects on cognition. The Neuroscientist. doi:10.1177/10738584221113806.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-A850-E
Noninvasive brain stimulation (NIBS) techniques are widely used tools for the study and rehabilitation of cognitive functions. Different NIBS approaches aim to enhance or impair different cognitive processes. The methodological focus for achieving this has been on stimulation protocols that are considered either inhibitory or facilitatory. However, despite more than three decades of use, their application is based on incomplete and overly simplistic conceptualizations of mechanisms of action. Such misconception limits the usefulness of these approaches in the basic science and clinical domains. In this review, we challenge this view by arguing that stimulation protocols themselves are neither inhibitory nor facilitatory. Instead, we suggest that all induced effects reflect complex interactions of internal and external factors. Given these considerations, we present a novel model in which we conceptualize NIBS effects as an interaction between brain activity and the characteristics of the external stimulus. This interactive model can explain various phenomena in the brain stimulation literature that have been considered unexpected or paradoxical. We argue that these effects no longer seem paradoxical when considered from the viewpoint of state dependency.