Synchronization of neuronal activity in the human primary motor cortex by transcranial magnetic stimulation: an EEG study

J Neurophysiol. 2001 Oct;86(4):1983-90. doi: 10.1152/jn.2001.86.4.1983.


Using multichannel electroencephalography (EEG), we investigated temporal dynamics of the cortical response to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS was applied over the left primary motor cortex (M1) of healthy volunteers, intermixing single suprathreshold pulses with pairs of sub- and suprathreshold pulses and simultaneously recording EEG from 60 scalp electrodes. Averaging of EEG data time locked to the onset of TMS pulses yielded a waveform consisting of a positive peak (30 ms after the pulse P30), followed by two negative peaks [at 45 (N45) and 100 ms]. Peak-to-peak amplitude of the P30-N45 waveform was high, ranging from 12 to 70 microV; in most subjects, the N45 potential could be identified in single EEG traces. Spectral analysis revealed that single-pulse TMS induced a brief period of synchronized activity in the beta range (15-30 Hz) in the vicinity of the stimulation site; again, this oscillatory response was apparent not only in the EEG averages but also in single traces. Both the N45 and the oscillatory response were lower in amplitude in the 12-ms (but not 3-ms) paired-pulse trials, compared with the single-pulse trials. These findings are consistent with the possibility that TMS applied to M1 induces transient synchronization of spontaneous activity of cortical neurons within the 15- to 30-Hz frequency range. As such, they corroborate previous studies of cortical oscillations in the motor cortex and point to the potential of the combined TMS/EEG approach for further investigations of cortical rhythms in the human brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Artifacts
  • Cortical Synchronization*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology
  • Eye Movements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Periodicity
  • Scalp
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*