Bernstein Newsletter 2018/1

Enhancing brain plasticity through strong magnetic waves

At early stages of cortical processing, specific stimulus characteristics are topographically arranged within so-called feature maps. Yet, these maps are not fixed, but alterable.

Our perception is based on the brain’s complex neuronal activity patterns triggered through all sorts of sensory input, no matter if we listen to music, touch an object or explore our surroundings.

Neurons respond more variably after magnetic stimulation

Dirk Jancke’s team from the Optical Imaging Lab at Ruhr University Bochum showed how strong magnetic fields affect the functional interconnectivity of neurons using voltage-dependent dyes.
The researchers employed high-frequency transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and compared how neurons reacted to visual stimuli before and after the procedure. The result: After the magnetic stimulation the neurons responded more variably. „You could say that after the TMS the neurons were somewhat undecided and hence, potentially open to new tasks”, explains Dirk Jancke. „Therefore, we reasoned that the treatment provides us with a time window during which neurons can change their functional preference.”

The researchers then investigated the impact of a passive visual training after TMS treatment. A 20 minute exposure to visual stimuli containing a certain edge orientation led to the enlargement of those brain regions whose cells revealed a strong preference for the presented edge orientation. „Thus, the map in the visual cortex quickly adapted to the new information content of visual stimulation,” explains Jancke. „The selective triggering of perceptual sensory or motor learning after application of TMS, could therefore be a possible approach for therapeutic measures as well as for certain kinds of sensorimotor training.”

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PD Dr. Dirk Jancke

Institut für Neuroinformatik NB2/27
Ruhr University Bochum
44780 Bochum
Germany

Phone Lab:+49 (0)234 32 28967
Phone Office: +49 (0)234-32-27845
E-Mail: dirk.jancke@rub.de