Magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) with different coercivities can be heated selectively by varying the frequency and amplitude of an external alternating magnetic field (AMF). This invention employs a mix of single domain MNPs and varying AMF parameters to generate local heat dissipation through magnetic hysteresis losses, which can then non-invasively activate distinct biological processes or cell types. This multimodal magnetic stimulation allows selective heating of subpopulations of the MNPs occupying the same spatial region even when they are exposed to the same magnetic field. Disclosed within the invention is a strategy to align the MNP magnetic moments to their easy axes (preferred magnetic directions), improving magnetic field-to-heat energy conversion, which will allow focusing MNPs to the specific volume of the body as well as limiting the volume affected by this multimodal magnetic stimulation. The MNPs can be selectively affixed to target cells via surface functionalization and biochemical targeting.