Transcranial magnetic stimulation can measure and modulate learning and memory

J. Grafman*, E. Wassermann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The potential uses for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) in the study of learning and memory range from a method to map the topography and intensity of motor output maps during visuomotor learning to inducing reversible lesions that allow for the precise temporal and spatial dissection of the brain processes underlying learning and remembering. Single-pulse TMS appears to be adequate to examine motor output maps but repetitive TMS (rTMS) appears necessary to affect most cognitive processes in measurable ways. The results we have reviewed in this article indicate that rTMS may have a potential clinical application in patients with epilepsy in whom it is important to identify the lateralization of verbal memory. Single-pulse TMS can help identify changes in motor output maps during training, that may indicate improved or diminished learning and memory processes following a stroke or other neurological insult. Other evidence indicates that rTMS may even have the capability of facilitating various aspects of memory performance. From a research perspective, rTMS has demonstrated site- and time-specific effects primarily in interfering with explicit retrieval of episodic information from long-term memory. rTMS may also be able to modulate retrieval from semantic memory as evidenced by response-time and accuracy changes after rTMS. All these findings suggest that the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation in the study of learning and memory will increase in the future and that it is already a valuable tool in the cognitive neuroscientists' belt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-167
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 1 1998


  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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