TMS with fast and accurate electronic control: Measuring the orientation sensitivity of corticomotor pathways

Victor Hugo Souza*, Jaakko O. Nieminen, Sergei Tugin, Lari M. Koponen, Oswaldo Baffa, Risto J. Ilmoniemi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
123 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) coils allow only a slow, mechanical adjustment of the stimulating electric field (E-field) orientation in the cerebral tissue. Fast E-field control is needed to synchronize the stimulation with the ongoing brain activity. Also, empirical models that fully describe the relationship between evoked responses and the stimulus orientation and intensity are still missing. Objective: We aimed to (1) develop a TMS transducer for manipulating the E-field orientation electronically with high accuracy at the neuronally meaningful millisecond-level time scale and (2) devise and validate a physiologically based model describing the orientation selectivity of neuronal excitability. Methods: We designed and manufactured a two-coil TMS transducer. The coil windings were computed with a minimum-energy optimization procedure, and the transducer was controlled with our custom-made electronics. The electronic E-field control was verified with a TMS characterizer. The motor evoked potential amplitude and latency of a hand muscle were mapped in 3° steps of the stimulus orientation in 16 healthy subjects for three stimulation intensities. We fitted a logistic model to the motor response amplitude. Results: The two-coil TMS transducer allows one to manipulate the pulse orientation accurately without manual coil movement. The motor response amplitude followed a logistic function of the stimulus orientation; this dependency was strongly affected by the stimulus intensity. Conclusion: The developed electronic control of the E-field orientation allows exploring new stimulation paradigms and probing neuronal mechanisms. The presented model helps to disentangle the neuronal mechanisms of brain function and guide future non-invasive stimulation protocols.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-315
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Stimulation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Automated brain stimulation
  • Electric field
  • Motor evoked potential
  • Multi-coil TMS
  • Multi-locus TMS
  • Orientation sensitivity
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation


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