Modulation of motor cortex excitability by median nerve and digit stimulation

Exp Brain Res. 1999 Nov;129(1):77-86. doi: 10.1007/s002210050938.


We investigated the time course of changes in motor cortex excitability after median nerve and digit stimulation. Although previous studies showed periods of increased and decreased corticospinal excitability following nerve stimulation, changes in cortical excitability beyond 200 ms after peripheral nerve stimulation have not been reported. Magnetoencephalographic studies have shown an increase in the 20-Hz rolandic rhythm from 200 to 1000 ms after median nerve stimulation. We tested the hypothesis that this increase is associated with reduced motor cortex excitability. The right or left median nerve was stimulated and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was applied to left motor cortex at different conditioning-test (C-T) intervals. Motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) were recorded from the right abductor pollicis brevis (APB), first dorsal interosseous (FDI), and extensor carpi radialis (ECR) muscles. Right median nerve stimulation reduced test MEP amplitude at C-T intervals from 400 to 1000 ms for APB, at C-T intervals from 200 to 1000 ms for FDI, and at C-T intervals of 200 and 600 ms for ECR, but had no effect on FDI F-wave amplitude at a C-T interval of 200 ms. Left median nerve (ipsilateral to TMS) stimulation resulted in less inhibition than right median nerve stimulation, but test MEP amplitude was significantly reduced at a C-T interval of 200 ms for all three muscles. Digit stimulation also reduced test MEP amplitude at C-T intervals of 200-600 ms. The time course for decreased motor cortex excitability following median nerve stimulation corresponds well to rebound of the 20-Hz cortical rhythm and supports the hypothesis that this increased power represents cortical deactivation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Conditioning, Psychological / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology
  • Female
  • Fingers / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetics
  • Male
  • Median Nerve / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation / methods
  • Pyramidal Tracts / physiology
  • Time Factors