Effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on movement-related cortical activity in humans

S Rossi, P Pasqualetti, P M Rossini, B Feige, M Ulivelli, F X Glocker, N Battistini, C H Lucking, R Kristeva-Feige
Cerebral Cortex 2000, 10 (8): 802-8
Several lines of evidence suggest that low-rate repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) of the motor cortex at 1 Hz reduces the excitability of the motor cortex and produces metabolic changes under and at a distance from the stimulated side. Therefore, it has been suggested that rTMS may have beneficial effects on motor performance in patients with movement disorders. However, it is still unknown in what way these effects can be produced. The aim of the present study is to investigate whether rTMS of the motor cortex (15 min at 1 Hz) is able to modify the voluntary movement related cortical activity, as reflected in the Beretischaftspotential (BP), and if these changes are functionally relevant for the final motor performance. The cortical movement-related activity in a typical BP paradigm of five healthy volunteers has been recorded using 61 scalp electrodes, while subjects performed self-paced right thumb oppositions every 8-20 s. After a basal recording, the BP was recorded in three different conditions, counterbalanced across subjects: after rTMS stimulation of the left primary motor area (M1) (15 min, 1 Hz, 10% above motor threshold), after 15 min of sham rTMS stimulation and following 15 min of voluntary movements performed with spatio-temporal characteristics similar to those induced by TMS. The tapping test was used to assess motor performance before and after each condition. Only movement-related trials with similar electromyographic (onset from muscular 'silence') and accelerometric patterns (same initial direction and similar amplitudes) were selected for computing BP waveforms. TMS- evoked and self-paced thumb movements had the same directional accelerometric pattern but different amplitudes. In all subjects, the real rTMS, but neither sham stimulation nor prolonged voluntary movements, produced a significant amplitude decrement of the negative slope of the BP; there was also a shortening of the BP onset time in four subjects. The effect was topographically restricted to cortical areas which were active in the basal condition, irrespective of the basal degree of activation at every single electrode. No changes in the tapping test occurred. These findings suggest that rTMS of the motor cortex at 1 Hz may interfere with the movement related brain activity, probably through influence on cortical inhibitory networks.

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