Objectives: To explore subclinical disturbances in the motor cortex of patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD).
Methods: We used transcranial magnetic stimulation in a paired pulse technique to test intracortical inhibition (ICI) and intracortical facilitation in mildly to moderately demented AD patients with a normal neurological examination. Patients were studied before and during treatment with the cholinesterase inhibitor donepezil.
Results: AD patients had a reduced ICI compared to an age-matched control group. The amount of disinhibition correlated with the severity of dementia. Treatment with 10 mg donepezil daily was associated with an increase of ICI.
Conclusions: The subclinical motor cortex disinhibition in AD patients indicates a functional disturbance, and is probably associated with a cholinergic deficit.