Dual-site TMS demonstrates causal functional connectivity between the left and right posterior temporal sulci during facial expression recognition

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JournalBrain Stimulation
DateAccepted/In press - 17 Apr 2020
DatePublished (current) - 23 Apr 2020
Issue number4
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)1008-1013
Original languageEnglish


Background: Neuroimaging studies suggest that facial expression recognition is processed in the bilateral posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS). Our recent repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) study demonstrates that the bilateral pSTS is causally involved in expression recognition, although involvement of the right pSTS is greater than involvement of the left pSTS.
Objective/Hypothesis: In this study, we used a dual-site TMS to investigate whether the left pSTS is functionally connected to the right pSTS during expression recognition. We predicted that if this connection exists, simultaneous TMS disruption of the bilateral pSTS would impair expression recognition to a greater extent than unilateral stimulation of the right pSTS alone.
Methods: Participants attended two TMS sessions. In Session 1, participants performed an expression recognition task while rTMS was delivered to the face-sensitive right pSTS (experimental site), object-sensitive right lateral occipital complex (control site) or no rTMS was delivered (behavioural control). In Session 2, the same experimental design was used, except that continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) was delivered to the left pSTS immediately before behavioural testing commenced. Session order was counter-balanced across participants.
Results: In Session 1, rTMS to the rpSTS impaired performance accuracy compared to the control conditions. Crucially in Session 2, the size of this impairment effect doubled after cTBS was delivered to the left pSTS.
Conclusions: Our results provide evidence for a causal functional connection between the left and right pSTS during expression recognition. In addition, this study further demonstrates the utility of the dual-site TMS for investigating causal functional links between brain regions.

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© 2020, The Author(s).

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