Transcranial magnetic stimulation has no placebo effect on motor learning

Milan B. Jelić, Vuk B. Stevanović, Sladjan D. Milanović, Miloš R. Ljubisavljević, Saša R. Filipović

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Motor learning is the core cognitive function in neurorehabilitation and in various other skill-training activities (e.g. sport, music). Therefore, there is an increasing interest in the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) methods for its enhancement. However, although usually assumed, a potential placebo effect of TMS methods on motor learning has never been systematically investigated. Methods: Improvement of performance on the Purdue Pegboard Task over three test-blocks (T0, T1, and T2), separated by >20. min, was used to evaluate motor learning. In Experiment-1, two groups of 10 participants each were compared: one group immediately before T1 received a sham intermittent theta burst stimulation procedure (P-iTBS group), while another did not have any intervention at all (control - CON group). In Experiment-2, a third group of participants (six subjects) who received sham high-frequency repetitive TMS procedure before T1 (P-rTMS group) was compared with P-iTBS group. Results: All three groups showed significant learning over time, but without any difference between them, either in Experiment-1 between P-iTBS and CON, or in Experiment-2 between P-rTMS and P-iTBS. Conclusion: The results suggest lack of any placebo effect of TMS on motor learning. Significance: The results may help in designing further TMS-motor learning studies and in interpreting their results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1646-1651
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Brain plasticity
  • Motor learning
  • Neurorehabilitation
  • Placebo
  • Purdue pegboard
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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