Skip to main content

Profile Image


Eric Wassermann, M.D.

Behavioral Neurology Unit

Building 10 Room 7D41
Bethesda MD 20892-1440
Office: 301-496-0151
Lab: 301-496-0151
Fax: 301-480-2909

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. We hope fMRI will provide stable and specific measures of how TMS and behavioral interventions affect brain networks and allow us to develop new treatments faster than by measuring behavioral outcomes alone. We are also testing the effect of TMS on 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. Some of our work is also sponsored by the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS).

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. DC brain polarization is a decades old technique for modulating the activity of neural tissues. These effects are selective for the polarity and the orientation of neurons in the field. The older literature contains instances of its ability to produce overt changes in behavior and newer studies show that quantifiable alterations in human behavioral and physiological responses can be produced safely, although the reproducibility of some of these effects is in question. One of our aims is to promote robust research in this area and facilitate the transfer of transcranial stimulation techniques from the laboratory to the clinic.

Clinical Protocol

  • 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

  • Sildenafil for Cerebrovascular Dysfunction in Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury 13-N-0008

  • Dopamine Receptor Imaging to Predict Response to Stimulant Therapy in Chronic TBI 14-N-0196

Staff Image
  • Catherine (Asha) Cunningham, B.Sc.
    Post baccalaureate Fellow

  • Michael Freedberg, Ph.D.
    Postdoctoral Fellow

  • Kristine Knutson, M.A.

  • Jeffrey Lewis, M.D., Ph.D.
    Special Volunteer

  • Jack Reeves, B.S.
    Post baccalaureate Fellow

  • Selene Schintu, Ph.D.
    Postdoctoral Fellow

  • Michael Tierney, M.A.

  • Sana Zahir, RN, BSN, CCRP

  • 1) Schintu S, Freedberg M, Alam ZM, Shomstein S, Wassermann EM (2018)
  • Left-shifting prism adaptation boosts reward-based learning
  • Cortex, 109, 279-286
  • 2) Wilkinson L, Koshy PJ, Steel A, Bageac D, Schintu S, Wassermann EM. (2017)
  • Motor cortex inhibition by TMS reduces cognitive non-motor procedural learning when immediate incentives are present
  • Cortex, 97, 70-80
  • 3) Steel A, Song S, Bageac D, Knutson K, Saad ZS, Gotts SJ, Wassermann EM, Wilkinson L (2016)
  • Shifts in connectivity during procedural learning after motor cortex stimulation: A combined TMS/fMRI study
  • Cortex, (In press)
  • 4) Wilkinson L, Steel A, Mooshagian E, Zimmermann T, Keisler A, Lewis JD, Wassermann EM (2015)
  • Online feedback enhances early consolidation of motor sequence learning and reverses recall deficit from transcranial stimulation of motor cortex
  • Cortex, 71, 134–147
  • 5) Mooshagian E, Keisler A, Zimmermann T, Schweickert JM, Wassermann EM (2014)
  • Modulation of corticospinal excitability by reward depends on task framing
  • Neuropsychologia, 68, 31-37
  • 6) Kapogiannis D, Mooshagian E, Campion P, Grafman J, Zimmermann TJ, Ladt KC, Wassermann EM. (2011)
  • Reward processing abnormalities in Parkinson's disease
  • Movement disorders
  • 7) 106. Clark, VP, Coffman, BA, Mayer, AM, Weisend, MP, Lane, TDR, Calhoun, VD, Raybourn, EM, Garcia, C, Wassermann, EM. (2011)
  • TDCS guided using fMRI significantly accelerates learning to identify concealed objects
  • NeuroImage
  • 8) Kapogiannis D, Campion P, Grafman J, Wassermann EM (2008)
  • Reward-related activity in the human motor cortex
  • European Journal of Neuroscience, 27, 1836-1842
  • 9) Gilbert DL, Wang Z, Sallee FR, Ridel KR, Merhar S, Zhang J, Lipps TD, White C, Badreldin N, Wassermann EM (2006)
  • Dopamine transporter genotype influences the physiological response to medication in ADHD
  • Brain, 129, 791-808
  • 10) Iyer MB, Schleper N, Wassermann EM (2003)
  • Priming stimulation enhances the depressant effect of low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • J Neurosci, 23, 10867-10872
  • 11) Smith MJ, Adams LF, Schmidt PJ, Rubinow DR, Wassermann EM (2002)
  • Ovarian hormone effects on human cortical excitability
  • Ann Neurol, 51, 599-603
  • 12) Amyot F, Zimmermann T, Riley J, Kainerstorfer JM, Najafizadeh L, Chernomordik V, Mooshagian E, Krueger F, Wassermann EM (2012)
  • Normative database of judgment of complexity task with functional near infrared spectroscopy - Application for TBI
  • Neuroimage, 60, 879-883
  • 13) Gilbert DL, Ridel KR, Sallee FR, Zhang J, Lipps TD, Wassermann EM (2006)
  • Comparison of the inhibitory and excitatory effects of ADHD medications methylphenidate and atomoxetine on motor cortex
  • Neuropsychopharmacology, 31, 442-9
  • 14) Gilbert DL, Sallee FR, Zhang J, Lipps T, Wassermann EM (2005)
  • TMS-evoked cortical inhibition: a consistent marker of ADHD scores in Tourette syndrome
  • Biol Psychiatry, 57, 1597-600
View Pubmed Publication