Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a safe, noninvasive, and painless way to stimulate the human motor cortex in behaving human subjects. When it is applied as a single-pulse, measurements such as central conduction time, motor threshold, silent-period duration, recruitment curve, and mapping of muscle representation can be determined. Paired-pulse TMS is a useful way to examine cortical excitability. Single and paired-pulse TMS have been applied to study plasticity following amputation and cortical excitability in patients with dystonia. Another form of TMS is repetitive TMS (rTMS), with stimuli delivered repeatedly to a single scalp site. High-frequency rTMS can be used to transiently inactivate different cortical areas to study their functions. rTMS can also modulate cortical excitability. At stimulus frequencies higher than 5 Hz, rTMS increases cortical excitability, and stimulation around 1 Hz reduces cortical excitability. Modulation of cortical excitability by rTMS has therapeutic potential in psychiatric and neurological disorders.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Muscle Nerve Supplement 9:S26-S32, 2000.