Studies of human motor physiology with transcranial magnetic stimulation

Muscle Nerve Suppl. 2000;9:S26-32. doi: 10.1002/1097-4598(2000)999:9<::aid-mus6>;2-i.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electric Stimulation
  • Humans
  • Motor Cortex / cytology*
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*