Mechanisms of intracortical I-wave facilitation elicited with paired-pulse magnetic stimulation in humans

J Physiol. 2002 Jan 1;538(Pt 1):253-61. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2001.013094.


In order to elucidate the mechanisms underlying intracortical I-wave facilitation elicited by paired-pulse magnetic stimulation, we compared intracortical facilitation of I1-waves with that of I3-waves using single motor unit and surface electromyographic (EMG) recordings from the first dorsal interosseous muscle (FDI). We used a suprathreshold first stimulus (S1) and a subthreshold second stimulus (S2). In most experiments, both stimuli induced currents in the same direction. In others, S1 induced posteriorly directed currents and S2 induced anteriorly directed currents. When both stimuli induced anteriorly directed currents (I1-wave effects), an interstimulus interval (ISI) of 1.5 ms resulted in extra facilitation of the responses to S1 alone. The latency of this effect was equivalent to that of the I2-wave from S1. When S1 evoked posteriorly directed currents (I3-wave recruitment), facilitation occurred at a latency corresponding to the I3-wave from S1. This facilitation occurred at an ISI of 1.5 ms when both S1 and S2 flowed posteriorly, and at an ISI of approximately 3.5 ms when S1 was posteriorly and S2 was anteriorly directed. Based on these findings, we propose the following mechanisms for intracortical I-wave facilitation. When S1 and S2 induce currents in the same direction, facilitation is produced by summation between excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) elicited by S1 and subliminal depolarization of interneurones elicited by S2 directly. When S1 and S2 induce currents in the opposite direction, facilitation is produced by the same mechanism as above or by temporal and spatial summation of EPSPs elicited by two successive stimuli at interneurones or corticospinal neurones of the motor cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Hand
  • Humans
  • Magnetics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology