The theoretical model of theta burst form of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation

Ying Zu Huang*, John C. Rothwell, Rou Shayn Chen, Chin Song Lu, Wen Li Chuang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

205 Scopus citations


Objective: Theta burst stimulation, a form of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, can induce lasting changes in corticospinal excitability that are thought to involve long-term potentiation/depression (LTD/LTD)-like effects on cortical synapses. The pattern of delivery of TBS is crucial in determining the direction of change in synaptic efficiency. Previously we explained this by postulating (1) that a single burst of stimulation induces a mixture of excitatory and inhibitory effects and (2) those effects may cascade to produce long-lasting effects. Here we formalise those ideas into a simple mathematical model. Methods: The model is based on a simplified description of the glutamatergic synapse in which post-synaptic Ca2+ entry initiates processes leading to different amount of potentiation and depression of synaptic transmission. The final effect on the synapse results from summation of the two effects. Results: The model using these assumptions can fit reported data. Metaplastic effects of voluntary contraction on the response to TBS can be incorporated by changing time constants in the model. Conclusions: The pattern-dependent after-effects and interactions with voluntary contraction can be successfully modelled by using reasonable assumptions about known cellular mechanisms of plasticity. Significance: The model could provide insight into development of new plasticity induction protocols using TMS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1011-1018
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 05 2011


  • Long-term depression
  • Long-term potentiation
  • Model
  • Plasticity
  • RTMS
  • TBS
  • Theta burst stimulation


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