Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy to study the effect of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in concussion: A two-patient case study

Joan M. Stilling, Chris C. Duszynski, Ibukunoluwa Oni, Eric Paxman, Jeff F. Dunn, Chantel T. Debert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Approximately 25% of concussion patients experience persistent post-concussion symptoms (PPCS). Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) has been explored as a treatment, and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) may be a cost-effective method for assessing response. Objectives: Evaluate rTMS for the treatment of PPCS and introduce fNIRS as a method of assessing treatment response. Methods: Design: Two-patient case study. Setting: Calgary Brain Injury Program. Participants: 47 and 49 years. male, with PPCS for 1–2 years (headache, cognitive difficulties, nausea, visual difficulties, irritability, anxiety, poor mood, sleep, and fatigue). Intervention: 10 sessions of rTMS therapy to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), at 10 Hz (600 pulses) and 70% of resting motor threshold amplitude. Participants completed an 8-week headache diary and a battery of clinical questionnaires prior to each fNIRS session. fNIRS: Hemodynamic changes were recorded over the frontoparietal cortex during rest, finger tapping, and a graded working memory test. fNIRS was completed pre-rTMS, following rTMS (day 14), and at 1-month post-rTMS (day 45). For comparison, two healthy, sex-matched controls were scanned with fNIRS once daily for five consecutive days. Results: Clinical scores improved (headache severity, MoCA, HIT-6, PHQ-9, GAD-7, QOLIBRI, RPSQ, BCPSI) or remained stable (PCL-5, headache frequency) post-rTMS, for both participants. Participant 1 reported moderate symptom burden, and a fNIRS task-evoked hemodynamic response showing increased oxyhemoglobin was observed following a working memory task, as expected. Participant 2 exhibited a high symptom burden pre-treatment, with abnormal fNIRS hemodynamic response where oxyhemoglobin declined, in response to task. One month following rTMS treatment, participant 2 had a normal fNIRS hemodynamic response to task, corresponding to significant improvements in clinical outcomes. Conclusion: This case study suggests fNIRS may be sensitive to physiological changes that accompany rTMS treatment. Further studies exploring fNIRS as a cost-effective technology for monitoring rTMS response in patients with PPCS are suggested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number476
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Concussion
  • Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS)
  • Post-concussion symptom
  • Rehabilitation
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (repetitive)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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