What Is TMS in Cognitive Psychology?


Martha Robinson

TMS, or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, is a non-invasive technique used to stimulate specific areas of the brain. The principle behind TMS is that a magnetic field can be used to generate an electrical current in the brain, which can then activate or inhibit neural activity.

What is Cognitive Psychology?

Cognitive psychology is the branch of psychology that focuses on mental processes such as attention, language use, perception, problem solving, memory and thinking. Cognitive psychologists study how people acquire and process information and how our mental processes affect our behavior.

How Does TMS Work?

TMS works by placing a magnetic coil on the scalp over the Targeted brain area. When a brief electrical current is passed through the coil, it generates a magnetic field that passes through the skull and induces an electrical current in the neural tissue beneath it. This current can either activate or inhibit neural activity depending on the frequency of stimulation.

Types of TMS:

  • Repetitive TMS (rTMS) – This involves repeated stimulation of a particular area of the brain over an extended period of time.
  • Theta Burst Stimulation (TBS) – This type of stimulation uses high-frequency bursts at 50 Hz.
  • Cortical Spreading Depression (CSD) – CSD is a phenomenon where neuronal activity decreases across large areas of cortex following localised TMS.

TMS Applications:

TMS has been used in cognitive psychology research to investigate a range of cognitive processes such as attention, perception, language use and memory. It has also been applied clinically to treat various neurological and psychiatric disorders such as depression and chronic pain.

The Future of TMS:

TMS is a rapidly developing field with new applications and techniques being developed all the time. Recent research has explored the use of TMS as a tool for enhancing cognitive performance in healthy individuals, and for treating conditions such as schizophrenia and tinnitus.


TMS is a powerful tool for investigating cognitive processes and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. With continued research, it is likely that TMS will become an even more valuable tool in the field of cognitive psychology.