Reliability of the input-output properties of the cortico-spinal pathway obtained from transcranial magnetic and electrical stimulation

J Neurosci Methods. 2001 Dec 15;112(2):193-202. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0270(01)00468-x.


The purpose of this experiment was to assess the test-retest reliability of input-output parameters of the cortico-spinal pathway derived from transcranial magnetic (TMS) and electrical (TES) stimulation at rest and during muscle contraction. Motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were recorded from the first dorsal interosseous muscle of eight individuals on three separate days. The intensity of TMS at rest was varied from 5% below threshold to the maximal output of the stimulator. During trials in which the muscle was active, TMS and TES intensities were selected that elicited MEPs of between 150 and 300 microV at rest. MEPs were evoked while the participants exerted torques up to 50% of their maximum capacity. The relationship between MEP size and stimulus intensity at rest was sigmoidal (R2=0.97). Intra-class correlation coefficients (ICC) ranged between 0.47 and 0.81 for the parameters of the sigmoid function. For the active trials, the slope and intercept of regression equations of MEP size on level of background contraction were obtained more reliably for TES (ICC=0.63 and 0.78, respectively) than for TMS (ICC=0.50 and 0.53, respectively). These results suggest that input-output parameters of the cortico-spinal pathway may be reliably obtained via transcranial stimulation during longitudinal investigations of cortico-spinal plasticity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electric Stimulation / instrumentation
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetics*
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Neural Conduction / physiology*
  • Neurophysiology / instrumentation
  • Neurophysiology / methods*
  • Pyramidal Tracts / physiology*
  • Reproducibility of Results