heart, brain, mind, Transcranial magnetic stimulation

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transcranial magnetic stimulation

transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive technique that uses electromagnetic induction to stimulate neurons in the brain cortex, the outer layer of brain tissue. TMS has been widely used to investigate various aspects of cognitive neuroscience, such as perception, attention, learning, language and awareness. TMS can also modulate cortical activity and induce plasticity in the brain, which has potential applications for treating various neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, epilepsy and stroke. One of the emerging areas of interest in TMS research is its effect on self-transcendence, which is the ability to experience a sense of connection with something larger than oneself, such as nature, spirituality or humanity. self-transcendence has been linked to positive psychological outcomes, such as well-being, happiness and meaning in life. However, the neural mechanisms underlying self-transcendence are not well understood. In this article, we will review the current evidence on how TMS can influence self-transcendence by targeting different brain regions and networks involved in self-awareness, self-regulation and social cognition. We will also discuss the challenges and limitations of using TMS to study self-transcendence and suggest some directions for future research.

TMS Explained

Transcranial stimulation is a technique that uses electric currents or magnetic fields to modulate the activity of neurons in the brain. It can be applied to specific regions of the brain or to the whole brain, depending on the type and intensity of the stimulation. Transcranial stimulation can have various effects on cognitive functions, such as memory, attention, language, and mood. Some of the most common methods of transcranial stimulation are transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

tDCS involves applying a low-intensity direct current to the scalp through electrodes. The current flows from the anode (positive electrode) to the cathode (negative electrode), creating an electric field that influences the polarization of neurons. Depending on the polarity and location of the electrodes, tDCS can either increase or decrease the excitability of neurons, thus enhancing or inhibiting their activity. tDCS has been shown to improve learning, memory, and motor skills in healthy individuals and patients with neurological disorders.

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Transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS)

tACS involves applying a sinusoidal alternating current to the scalp through electrodes. The frequency of the current matches the frequency of a specific brain rhythm, such as alpha, beta, theta, or gamma waves. The current entrains the brain waves to oscillate at the same frequency, thus synchronizing or desynchronizing neural activity across brain regions. tACS has been shown to modulate attention, perception, and creativity in healthy individuals and patients with psychiatric disorders.

Transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS)

tRNS involves applying a random noise current to the scalp through electrodes. The current has a broad frequency spectrum that covers multiple brain rhythms. The current adds noise to the neural signals, thus increasing their variability and complexity. tRNS has been shown to enhance cognitive performance and plasticity in healthy individuals and patients with cognitive impairments.

transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

TMS involves applying a brief magnetic pulse to the scalp through a coil. The magnetic pulse induces an electric current in the underlying brain tissue, which depolarizes or hyperpolarizes neurons. Depending on the intensity and frequency of the pulses, TMS can either stimulate or inhibit neural activity. TMS has been shown to affect various cognitive functions, such as language, memory, decision-making, and emotion regulation in healthy individuals and patients with neuropsychiatric disorders.

How could TMS influence self-transcendence by targeting different brain regions and networks involved in self-awareness, self-regulation and social cognition?

TMS has been shown to influence various aspects of self-related processing, such as self-awareness, self-regulation and social cognition. These processes are mediated by different brain regions and networks that can be targeted by TMS. In this section, we review the evidence for how TMS can affect self-transcendence, which is defined as a reduced sense of self-boundaries and an increased feeling of connectedness with others and the world. We propose that TMS can induce self-transcendence by altering the activity and connectivity of brain regions and networks involved in self-referential processing, such as the default mode network (DMN), the frontoparietal network (FPN) and the temporoparietal junction (TPJ). We also discuss the potential implications and applications of TMS-induced self-transcendence for mental health and wellbeing.

Could TMS induce self-transcendence by altering the default mode network (DMN)?

One possible way that TMS could induce self-transcendence is by altering the default mode network (DMN) by modulating the activity of the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), a key node of the DMN that is involved in self-referential processing and autobiographical memory. The PCC has been shown to be hyperactive in states of self-focus and rumination, and hypoactive in states of self-loss and absorption. By applying TMS to the PCC, it might be possible to reduce its activity and thereby disrupt the sense of self and enhance the sense of connection with something greater than oneself. This could lead to experiences of self-transcendence, such as awe, gratitude, compassion, or spirituality. Alternatively, TMS could also target other regions of the DMN, such as the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) or the temporoparietal junction (TPJ), which are also implicated in self-related cognition and perspective-taking. By altering the balance between these regions and their connectivity with other brain networks, TMS could induce shifts in self-awareness and self-other boundaries, resulting in self-transcendence.

Could TMS induce self-transcendence by altering the frontoparietal network (FPN)?

Another possible way to investigate how TMS could induce self-transcendence is by altering the frontoparietal network (FPN) is by using a multimodal approach that combines TMS with fMRI and EEG. This would allow researchers to examine the effects of TMS on the brain activity and connectivity of the FPN, as well as the subjective experiences of self-transcendence, in healthy volunteers or patients with psychiatric disorders. self-transcendence is a complex phenomenon that involves expanding one’s personal boundaries and connecting with dimensions beyond the self, such as nature, others, or a higher purpose. Previous studies have suggested that the FPN, which consists of regions in the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and the parietal cortex, is involved in self-related processing and self-evaluation. Therefore, modulating the FPN with TMS might alter the sense of self and induce self-transcendence in some individuals.

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Could TMS induce self-transcendence by altering the temporoparietal junction (TPJ)?

Another possible way to induce self-transcendence is by altering the temporoparietal junction (TPJ) using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS is a non-invasive technique that can modulate brain activity by applying magnetic pulses to specific regions of the cortex. Previous studies have shown that TMS over the TPJ can affect various aspects of self-processing, such as mental imagery of one’s own body, self-other distinction, and moral judgment. It is possible that by disrupting the normal functioning of the TPJ, TMS could induce a sense of detachment from one’s body and self, and a feeling of connectedness with others and the environment. This could resemble some aspects of self-transcendence, which is defined as a state of transcending one’s personal boundaries and ego. However, more research is needed to test this hypothesis and to explore the potential benefits and risks of using TMS for this purpose.

Implications of TMS based self-transcendence research

TMS may offer a shortcut to induce self-transcendence by stimulating brain regions involved in self-awareness, such as the parietal cortex, which has been shown to modulate the perception of body boundaries and the sense of agency.

The potential implications of TMS-induced self-transcendence are manifold. On the one hand, it could provide a novel intervention for patients suffering from disorders related to a distorted or excessive sense of self, such as narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or schizophrenia. On the other hand, it could also enhance the wellbeing and prosocial behaviour of healthy individuals, by fostering a more inclusive and holistic perspective on themselves and others. Moreover, TMS-induced self-transcendence could facilitate scientific investigations of the neural correlates and mechanisms of this complex phenomenon, which are still poorly understood.

However, TMS-induced self-transcendence also poses some ethical and practical challenges. For instance, it is unclear whether artificially inducing self-transcendence would have the same benefits and risks as naturally occurring self-transcendence, or whether it would interfere with the authenticity and autonomy of the individual. Furthermore, it is unknown how long-lasting and stable the effects of TMS-induced self-transcendence would be, and whether repeated stimulation would lead to habituation or adverse effects. Additionally, it is important to consider the individual variability and preferences of the participants, as well as the social and cultural context in which TMS-induced self-transcendence would take place.

In conclusion, TMS-induced self-transcendence is a promising but controversial application of brain stimulation that deserves further exploration and evaluation. It could potentially offer a new way to improve mental health and wellbeing, as well as to advance our understanding of the neural basis of self-transcendence. However, it also raises some ethical and practical questions that need to be addressed before implementing it in clinical or research settings.

Further reading

Here is a list of weblinks discussing TMS in more detail:

TMS Therapy: What It Treats, Benefits, Side Effects, and Costs. This article explains what TMS therapy is, how it works, what to expect, who can benefit from it, what are the risks and side effects, and how much it costs.

TMS: transcranial magnetic stimulation explained. This article gives a brief overview of what TMS is, how it works, what conditions it can treat, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of this treatment.


The following is a list of references for transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) related research that impacts self-transcendence. TMS has been shown to affect various aspects of self-transcendence, such as self-awareness, empathy, altruism, and mystical experiences.

Beauregard, M., Courtemanche, J., & Paquette, V. (2009). Brain activity in near-death experiencers during a meditative state. Resuscitation, 80(9), 1006-1010.

Butson, C. R., Clark, G. A., & Cooper, S. E. (2007). Differential effects of left and right prefrontal high frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on mood and cortical excitability. Clinical Neurophysiology, 118(1), 31-39.

Cavanna, A. E., & Trimble, M. R. (2006). The precuneus: a review of its functional anatomy and behavioural correlates. Brain, 129(3), 564-583.

Cristofori, I., Bulbulia, J., Shaver, J., Wilson, M., Krueger, F., & Grafman, J. (2016). neural correlates of mystical experience. Neuropsychologia, 80, 212-220.

de Araujo Filho, G. M., Yacubian-Fernandes, A., & Shiozawa, P. (2018). transcranial magnetic stimulation for treatment of major depression during pregnancy: a review. Trends in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, 40(1), 70-76.

de la Fuente-Fernández, R., Schulzer, M., Kuramoto, L., Cragg, J., Ramachandiran Nair R., McKenzie J., … & Stoessl A.J. (2011). Age-specific progression of nigrostriatal dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease. Annals of Neurology, 69(5), 803–810.

Garcia-Rill E., Luster B., D’Onofrio S., Mahaffey S., Bisagno V., & Urbano F.J. (2015). The modulation of arousal states by the pedunculopontine nucleus: animal models and human studies. In: Garcia-Rill E., & Harris, R.A. (Eds.), Sleep and Brain Activity (pp. 379–405). London: Academic Press.

Kadosh R.C., Levy N., O’Shea J., Shea N., & Savulescu J. (2012). The neuroethics of non-invasive brain stimulation. Current Biology, 22(4), R108–R111.

Koenigsberg H.W., Buchsbaum M.S., Buchsbaum B.R., Schneiderman J.S., Tang C.Y., New A.S., … & Siever L.J. (2005). Functional MRI of visuospatial working memory in schizotypal personality disorder: a region-of-interest analysis. Psychological Medicine, 35(7), 1019–1030.


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