Transcranial magnetic stimulation techniques to study the somatosensory system
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The introduction of brain stimulation research techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has greatly advanced the understanding of the somatosensory system in humans. Over the last several years, several studies have focused on applying TMS in a variety of contexts to alter transiently the excitability of the somatosensory cortex or regions that project to it and exert some control over its activity in specific behavioral contexts. Specific foci that are discussed in this chapter are methods of repetitive TMS, including theta-burst protocols, delivered to the primary somatosensory cortex that have been shown to affect behavioral indices of somatic sensation such as tactile perception. Similar stimulation techniques can also be applied to distant areas that interact with and modulate activity in somatosensory cortex (i.e., attentional or motor networks). For example, suppression of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex modifies the attention-modulation of somatosensory information in modality-specific cortices. Overall this chapter is focused on understanding the interaction of activity in systems that function with the somatosensory system in behavioral contexts. These include systems such as those that control attention, whether sustained or selective between sensory modalities, or those that control movement based on targets present in other sensory systems.
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