Simultaneous transcranial magnetic stimulation and single-neuron recording in alert non-human primates.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a widely used, noninvasive method for stimulating nervous tissue, yet its mechanisms of effect are poorly understood. Here we report new methods for studying the influence of TMS on single neurons in the brain of alert non-human primates. We designed a TMS coil that focuses its effect near the tip of a recording electrode and recording electronics that enable direct acquisition of neuronal signals at the site of peak stimulus strength minimally perturbed by stimulation artifact in awake monkeys (Macaca mulatta). We recorded action potentials within ∼1 ms after 0.4-ms TMS pulses and observed changes in activity that differed significantly for active stimulation as compared with sham stimulation. This methodology is compatible with standard equipment in primate laboratories, allowing easy implementation. Application of these tools will facilitate the refinement of next generation TMS devices, experiments and treatment protocols.





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Publication Info

Mueller, Jerel K, Erinn M Grigsby, Vincent Prevosto, Frank W Petraglia, Hrishikesh Rao, Zhi-De Deng, Angel V Peterchev, Marc A Sommer, et al. (2014). Simultaneous transcranial magnetic stimulation and single-neuron recording in alert non-human primates. Nat Neurosci, 17(8). pp. 1130–1136. 10.1038/nn.3751 Retrieved from

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Angel V Peterchev

Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

I direct the Brain Stimulation Engineering Lab (BSEL) which focuses on the development, modeling, and application of devices and paradigms for transcranial brain stimulation. Transcranial brain stimulation involves non-invasive delivery of fields (e.g., electric and magnetic) to the brain that modulate neural activity. It is widely used as a tool for research and a therapeutic intervention in neurology and psychiatry, including several FDA-cleared indications. BSEL develops novel technology such as devices for transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) that leverage design techniques from power electronics and computational electromagnetics to enable more flexible stimulus control, focal stimulation, and quiet operation. We also deploy these devices in experimental studies to characterize and optimize the brain response to TMS. Another line of work is multi-scale computational models that couple simulations of the electromagnetic fields, single neuron responses, and neural population modulation induced by electric and magnetic brain stimulation. These models are calibrated and validated with experimental neural recordings through various collaborations. Apart from understanding of mechanisms, we develop modeling, algorithmic, and targeting tools for response estimation, dose individualization, and precise localization of transcranial brain stimulation using advanced techniques such as artificial neural networks and machine learning. Moreover, BSEL is involved in the integration of transcranial brain stimulation with robotics, neuronavigation, intracranial electrophysiology recordings, and imaging modalities such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG), as well as the evaluation of the safety of device–device interactions, for example between transcranial stimulators and implants. Importantly, we collaborate widely with neuroscientists and clinicians within Duke and at other institutions to translate developments from the lab to research and clinical applications. For over 15 years, BSEL has been continuously supported with multiple NIH grants as well as funding by DARPA, NSF, Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, Coulter Foundation, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, MEDx, Duke University Energy Initiative, and industry. Further, some of our technology has been commercialized, for example as ElevateTMS cTMS, or incorporated in free software packages, such as SimNIBS.


Marc A. Sommer

Professor of Biomedical Engineering

We study circuits for cognition. Using a combination of neurophysiology and biomedical engineering, we focus on the interaction between brain areas during visual perception, decision-making, and motor planning. Specific projects include the role of frontal cortex in metacognition, the role of cerebellar-frontal circuits in action timing, the neural basis of "good enough" decision-making (satisficing), and the neural mechanisms of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).


Tobias Egner

Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

My research focuses on the computational and neural mechanisms of cognitive control, the use of internal goals to guide behavior. This involves understanding how people configure and focus on a current task, and how they switch from one task to another. We study these processes using behavioral experiments as well as computational modeling, neuroimaging, and neurostimulation techniques.


Warren M. Grill

Edmund T. Pratt, Jr. School Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Our research employs engineering approaches to understand and control neural function. We work on fundamental questions and applied development in electrical stimulation of the nervous system to restore function to individuals with neurological impairment or injury.

Current projects include:
• understanding the mechanisms of and developing advanced approaches to deep brain stimulation to treat movement disorders,
• developing novel approaches to peripheral nerve electrical stimulation for restoration of bladder function, 
• understanding the mechanisms of and developing advanced approaches to spinal cord stimulation to treat chronic pain,
• understanding and controlling the cellular effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation, and
• design of novel electrodes and waveforms for selective stimulation of the nervous system.

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