Eric M. Wassermann, M.D.

Dr. Eric Wassermann
Staff Clinician
Behavioral Neurology Unit

BG 10 RM 7D41

Dr. Wassermann received his B.A. from Swarthmore College, his M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, and his M.D. from New York Medical College. After neurology residency at the Boston City Hospital, he came to the NINDS Human Motor Control Section as a postdoc, to study motor cortex physiology and the control of voluntary movement. As a fellow, he pioneered many of the fundamental techniques of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and collaborated on the first clinical use of TMS in the treatment of depression. Dr. Wassermann established an independent laboratory in 1996 and has focused on using noninvasive techniques to measure and influence plastic processes in the human brain.

In 2004-2007, he was detailed to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, DHHS as an expert in chemical casualty care and response planning.

We study the brain systems underlying learning, memory and sensorimotor adaptation, using noninvasive brain stimulation, functional and structural neuroimaging, and innovative behavioral paradigms. The main thrust of our basic human research is how to make learning and adaptive brain plasticity more efficient in patients with brain damage and healthy people. Current laboratory projects include experiments combining transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) and functional MRI (fMRI) to study how changes in the brain networks for visual attention and implicit and explicit learning lead to improved performance. We are using TMS to make targeted changes in the connections between brain areas and fMRI to locate and quantify those changes. fMRI techniques, especially resting state functional connectivity have provided us with stable and specific measures of how TMS and behavioral interventions affect brain networks. We hope this work will allow us to develop new treatments faster than by measuring behavioral outcomes alone. We are also testing the effect of TMS on spontaneous and TMS-evoked electroencephalographic activity as a way of detecting changes in brain connections.

We have a clinical interest in understanding and treating the symptoms and cognitive problems associated with traumatic brain injury and have an ongoing study of the effects of occupational exposure to low-level blast in collaboration with colleagues at the Naval Medical Research Center and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. 


Transcranial Brain Stimulation
Transcranial Brain Stimulation


We have been involved used transcranial brain stimulation as a research tool since 1989 and have performed some of the key studies to validate the techniques and establish guidelines for their safe use. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a noninvasive means of getting electrical energy across the insulating tissues of the head and into the brain. A powerful and rapidly changing electrical current is passed through a coil of wire applied near the head. The magnetic field, oriented perpendicular to the plane of the coil passes virtually unimpeded through the scalp and skull. In the brain, the magnetic field produces currents in the induced electrical field lying parallel to the plane of the coil. These currents are able to excite neural processes lying in the plane of the induced field in a manner roughly analogous to direct cortical stimulation with electrodes. In properly designed experiments, TMS can be a powerful physiological probe of cortical cortical function for clinical and basic neurophysiology. It is also an effective technique for altering the responsiveness of human brain circuits and may have therapeutic applications, as well. One of our aims is to promote reproducible research in this area and facilitate the transfer of transcranial stimulation techniques from the laboratory to the clinic. 

Clinical Protocols:

  • Effects of prism adaptation and rTMS on brain connectivity and visual representation 16-N-0170

  • Functional connectivity as a biomarker of rTMS 17-N-0055

  • Experienced Breacher Study: Evaluation of the Effects from Chronic Exposure to Low-Level Blast 12-N-0065

  • Modulating the hippocampal and striatal memory circuits with TMS 19-N-0114

  • Task-dependent effects of TMS on the neural biomarkers of episodic memory P205294 

  • Evaluation of attentional performance in Parkinson disease P204961

Selene Schintu, PhD

Kristen Warren, PhD

Kris Knutson

Michael Tierney

Amelia Stapleton

Cynthia Fioriti

Gautam Ramanathan

Naiya Osiyemi


Freedberg M, Cunningham CA, Fioriti CM, Murillo JD, Reeves JA, Taylor PA, Sarlls JE, Wassermann EM. (2021). Multiple parietal pathways are associated with rTMS-induced hippocampal network enhancement and episodic memory changes. Neuroimage, 118199.


Rossi S, Antal A, Bestmann S, Bikson M, Brewer C, Brockmöller J, Carpenter LL, Cincotta M, Chen R, Daskalakis JD, Di Lazzaro V, Fox MD, George MS, Gilbert D, Kimiskidis VK, Koch G, Ilmoniemi RJ, Lefaucheur JP, Leocani L, Lisanby SH, Miniussi C, Padberg F, Pascual-Leone A, Paulus W, Peterchev AV, Quartarone A, Rotenberg A, Rothwell J, Rossini PM, Santarnecchi E, Shafi MM, Siebner HR, Ugawa Y, Wassermann EM, Zangen A, Ziemann U, Hallett M; basis of this article began with a Consensus Statement from the IFCN Workshop on "Present, Future of TMS: Safety, Ethical Guidelines", Siena, October 17-20, 2018, updating through April 2020. Safety and recommendations for TMS use in healthy subjects and patient populations, with updates on training, ethical and regulatory issues: Expert Guidelines. Clin Neurophysiol. 2021 Jan;132(1):269-306. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2020.10.003. Epub 2020 Oct 24. PMID: 33243615.

Schintu S, Cunningham CA, Freedberg M, Taylor P, Gotts SJ, Shomstein S, Wassermann EM. Callosal anisotropy predicts attentional network changes after parietal inhibitory stimulation. Neuroimage. 2021 Feb 1;226:117559. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117559. Epub 2020 Nov 13. PMID: 33189929; PMCID: PMC7885523.

Stone JR, Avants BB, Tustison NJ, Wassermann EM, Gill J, Polejaeva E, Dell KC, Carr W, Yarnell AM, LoPresti ML, Walker P, O'Brien M, Domeisen N, Quick A, Modica CM, Hughes JD, Haran FJ, Goforth C, Ahlers ST. Functional and Structural Neuroimaging Correlates of Repetitive Low-Level Blast Exposure in Career Breachers. J Neurotrauma. 2020 Dec 1;37(23):2468-2481. doi: 10.1089/neu.2020.7141. Epub 2020 Sep 30. PMID: 32928028; PMCID: PMC7703399.

Knutson KM, Gotts SJ, Wassermann EM, Lewis JD. Testosterone and Resting State Connectivity of the Parahippocampal Gyrus in Men With History of Deployment- Related Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Mil Med. 2020 Sep 18;185(9-10):e1750-e1758. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usaa142. PMID: 32776114; PMCID: PMC7643124.

Schintu S, Freedberg M, Gotts SJ, Cunningham CA, Alam ZM, Shomstein S, Wassermann EM. Prism Adaptation Modulates Connectivity of the Intraparietal Sulcus with Multiple Brain Networks. Cereb Cortex. 2020 Jul 30;30(9):4747-4758. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhaa032. PMID: 32313949; PMCID: PMC7526755.

Leung A, Shirvalkar P, Chen R, Kuluva J, Vaninetti M, Bermudes R, Poree L, Wassermann EM, Kopell B, Levy R; and the Expert Consensus Panel. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Pain, Headache, and Comorbid Depression: INS-NANS Expert Consensus Panel Review and Recommendation. Neuromodulation. 2020 Apr;23(3):267-290. doi: 10.1111/ner.13094. Epub 2020 Mar 25. PMID: 32212288.

Freedberg M, Reeves JA, Hussain SJ, Zaghloul KA, Wassermann EM. Identifying site- and stimulation-specific TMS-evoked EEG potentials using a quantitative cosine similarity metric. PLoS One. 2020 Jan 13;15(1):e0216185. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216185. PMID: 31929531; PMCID: PMC6957143.

Freedberg M, Toader AC, Wassermann EM, Voss JL. Competitive and cooperative interactions between medial temporal and striatal learning systems. Neuropsychologia. 2020 Jan;136:107257. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2019.107257. Epub 2019 Nov 14. PMID: 31733236.

Freedberg M, Reeves JA, Toader AC, Hermiller MS, Kim E, Haubenberger D, Cheung YK, Voss JL, Wassermann EM. Optimizing Hippocampal-Cortical Network Modulation via Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: A Dose-Finding Study Using the Continual Reassessment Method. Neuromodulation. 2020 Apr;23(3):366-372. doi: 10.1111/ner.13052. Epub 2019 Oct 30. PMID: 31667947; PMCID: PMC7657658.

Freedberg M, Reeves JA, Toader AC, Hermiller MS, Voss JL, Wassermann EM. Persistent Enhancement of Hippocampal Network Connectivity by Parietal rTMS Is Reproducible. eNeuro. 2019 Oct 16;6(5):ENEURO.0129-19.2019. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0129-19.2019. PMID: 31591137; PMCID: PMC6795558.

Gilbert DL, Huddleston DA, Wu SW, Pedapati EV, Horn PS, Hirabayashi K, Crocetti D, Wassermann EM, Mostofsky SH. Motor cortex inhibition and modulation in children with ADHD. Neurology. 2019 Aug 6;93(6):e599-e610. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007899. Epub 2019 Jul 17. PMID: 31315973; PMCID: PMC6709998.

Lerner AJ, Wassermann EM, Tamir DI. Seizures from transcranial magnetic stimulation 2012-2016: Results of a survey of active laboratories and clinics. Clin Neurophysiol. 2019 Aug;130(8):1409-1416. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2019.03.016. Epub 2019 Apr 6. PMID: 31104898; PMCID: PMC7274462.

Schintu S, Freedberg M, Alam ZM, Shomstein S, Wassermann EM. Left-shifting prism adaptation boosts reward-based learning. Cortex. 2018 Dec;109:279-286. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2018.09.021. Epub 2018 Oct 12. PMID: 30399479; PMCID: PMC7327780.

Wilkinson L, Koshy PJ, Steel A, Bageac D, Schintu S, Wassermann EM. Motor cortex inhibition by TMS reduces cognitive non-motor procedural learning when immediate incentives are present. Cortex. 2017 Dec;97:70-80. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2017.10.001. Epub 2017 Oct 6. PMID: 29096197; PMCID: PMC5716846.

Steel A, Song S, Bageac D, Knutson KM, Keisler A, Saad ZS, Gotts SJ, Wassermann EM, Wilkinson L. Shifts in connectivity during procedural learning after motor cortex stimulation: A combined transcranial magnetic stimulation/functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Cortex. 2016 Jan;74:134-48. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2015.10.004. Epub 2015 Oct 23. PMID: 26673946; PMCID: PMC4724496.

Wilkinson L, Steel A, Mooshagian E, Zimmermann T, Keisler A, Lewis JD, Wassermann EM. Online feedback enhances early consolidation of motor sequence learning and reverses recall deficit from transcranial stimulation of motor cortex. Cortex. 2015 Oct;71:134-47. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2015.06.012. Epub 2015 Jul 3. PMID: 26204232; PMCID: PMC4575846.