JOURNAL ARTICLE

Theta burst stimulation of human primary motor cortex degrades selective muscle activation in the ipsilateral arm

Lynley V Bradnam, Cathy M Stinear, Winston D Byblow
Journal of Neurophysiology 2010, 104 (5): 2594-602
20844109
This study investigated whether repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) delivered as continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) to left M1 degraded selective muscle activation in the contralateral and ipsilateral upper limb in healthy participants. Contralateral motor-evoked potentials (cMEPs) were elicited in left and right biceps brachii (BB) before either elbow flexion or forearm pronation. A neurophysiological index, the excitability ratio (ER), was computed from the relative size of BB cMEPs before each type of movement. Short interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) was assessed in cMEPs of right BB with paired-pulse TMS of left M1. Ipsilateral MEPs (iMEPs) and silent periods (iSPs) were measured in left BB with single-pulse TMS of left M1. Low-intensity cTBS was expected to suppress corticospinal output from left M1. A sham condition was also included. Real but not sham cTBS caused increases in BB ER bilaterally. In the right arm, ER increased because BB cMEPs before flexion were less facilitated, whereas cMEPs in the pronation task were unaffected. This was accompanied by an increase in left M1 SICI. In the left arm, ER increased because BB cMEPs before pronation were facilitated but were unaffected in the flexion task. There was also facilitation of left BB iMEPs. These changes in the left arm are consistent with inappropriate facilitation of left BB α-motoneurons (αMNs) before pronation. This is the first demonstration that cTBS of M1 can alter excitability of neurons controlling ipsilateral proximal musculature and degrade ipsilateral upper limb motor control, providing evidence that ipsilateral and contralateral M1 shape the spatial and temporal characteristics of proximal muscle activation appropriate for the task at hand.

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