Two different effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation to the human motor cortex during the pre-movement period

Toshihiro Hashimoto, Daisuke Inaba, Michikazu Matsumura, Eiichi Naito
Neuroscience Research 2004, 50 (4): 427-36
A single-pulse TMS to the human motor cortex (M1) influences reaction time (RT). We may summarize from previous studies where different groups of subjects participated in various types of RT tasks that TMS above motor threshold (MT) delays RT, whereas TMS below MT shortens RT and that these RT changes depends on TMS timings during RT period. However, these effects have never been systematically investigated in a single study where an identical group of subjects participated. The purpose of this study is to test previous TMS effects in a study of simple RT task. Seven subjects isometrically abducted their right index fingers as quickly as possible when a visual stimulus appeared. A single-pulse TMS was randomly delivered over the left M1 at various timings during RT period in a single trial (at 0, 40, 60, 80 or 100 ms after the visual stimulus). Motor-evoked potential (MEP) and EMG activity for response were recorded from the right finger muscles. Only the TMS above MT delivered at 80 or 100 ms, which increased MEP amplitude, significantly delayed RT and increased the size of response EMG activities that may reflect contents of central motor commands. The TMS below MT at these timings, which occasionally evoked MEP, exclusively shortened RT despite the fact that the response EMG size was unchanged. A single-pulse TMS has different effects on the ongoing neuronal processes in M1 during the pre-movement period: TMS above MT may temporally retard the processes and also affect contents of central motor commands, whereas TMS below MT may simply facilitate its processes without affecting motor commands.

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