Brain stimulation, particularly in its non-invasive form, is widely used as a therapeutic technique to improve symptoms in a range of neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions.  

The benefits of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), a process that delivers magnetic pulses to nerve cells, have been shown for many conditions, for example depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, nicotine addiction and pain. However, there is still much to be understood about the mechanisms behind these therapeutic effects.   

A recently published literature review by researchers at Western Australia’s Perron Institute has uncovered new pathways for investigating how rTMS works.    

While repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation most commonly involves delivery of the magnetic pulses at high intensity, the review focused on the learnings from preclinical studies that have looked at low intensity stimulation.  

The review described increasing evidence that rTMS at lower intensity may be as effective as high intensity for some conditions and, in some cases, provide additional benefits. As well as confirming magnetic pulse intensity as an important parameter in the use of rTMS, the review highlighted the importance of preclinical models in informing current research in the field of brain stimulation.  

The literature review entitled A little goes a long way: Neurobiological effects of low intensity rTMS and implications for mechanisms of rTMS, was published in the journal Current Research in Neurobiology. The first author is PhD student Jessica Moretti (UWA and Perron Institute), and the senior author is Associate Professor Jennifer Rodger, Head of Brain Plasticity Research and MSWA Senior Research Fellow at UWA and the Perron Institute.  

In undertaking the review, Ms Moretti was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program scholarship, and a Byron Kakulas Prestige scholarship. A/Professor Rodger’s work is supported by a fellowship from MSWA.