Introducing Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and its Property of Causal Inference in Investigating Brain-Function Relationships

Synthese 141 (2):155-173 (2004)
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Abstract

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a method capable of transiently modulating neural excitability. Depending on the stimulation parameters information processing in the brain can be either enhanced or disrupted. This way the contribution of different brain areas involved in mental processes can be studied, allowing a functional decomposition of cognitive behavior both in the temporal and spatial domain, hence providing a functional resolution of brain/mind processes. The aim of the present paper is to argue that TMS with its ability to draw causal inferences on function and its neural representations is a valuable neurophysiological tool for investigating the causal basis of neuronal functions and can provide substantive insight into the modern interdisciplinary and (anti)reductionist neurophilosophical debates concerning the relationships between brain functions and mental abilities. Thus, TMS can serve as a heuristic method for resolving causal issues in an arena where only correlative tools have traditionally been available.

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