Exploration and modulation of brain network interactions with noninvasive brain stimulation in combination with neuroimaging

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Much recent work in systems neuroscience has focused on how dynamic interactions between different cortical regions underlie complex brain functions such as motor coordination, language and emotional regulation. Various studies using neuroimaging and neurophysiologic techniques have suggested that in many neuropsychiatric disorders, these dynamic brain networks are dysregulated. Here we review the utility of combined noninvasive brain stimulation and neuroimaging approaches towards greater understanding of dynamic brain networks in health and disease. Brain stimulation techniques, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and transcranial direct current stimulation, use electromagnetic principles to alter brain activity noninvasively, and induce focal but also network effects beyond the stimulation site. When combined with brain imaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography and electroencephalography, these brain stimulation techniques enable a causal assessment of the interaction between different network components, and their respective functional roles. The same techniques can also be applied to explore hypotheses regarding the changes in functional connectivity that occur during task performance and in various disease states such as stroke, depression and schizophrenia. Finally, in diseases characterized by pathologic alterations in either the excitability within a single region or in the activity of distributed networks, such techniques provide a potential mechanism to alter cortical network function and architectures in a beneficial manner.

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