The effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on cortical inhibition in healthy human subjects

Exp Brain Res. 2006 Oct;174(3):403-12. doi: 10.1007/s00221-006-0472-0. Epub 2006 May 9.


It has been suggested that the therapeutic effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) are mediated through changes in cortical inhibition (CI). However, in healthy human subjects the effects of rTMS on CI have been inconsistent. Therefore, this study sought to improve on the methodological limitations of previous studies by exploring several different rTMS-stimulus conditions on inhibition in the human motor cortex. In the first experiment, 12 healthy control subjects were randomly assigned to receive regular 1, 10 or 20 Hz rTMS in a counterbalanced order with sessions separated by at least 1 week. In the second experiment, 10 of these 12 subjects received priming rTMS (600 stimuli at 6 Hz followed by 600 stimuli at 1 Hz). Cortical inhibition was indexed using short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) and cortical silent period (CSP). Corticospinal excitability was indexed using motor threshold and MEP amplitude. We found no significant overall change in SICI, although there was a significant correlation between changes in SICI with baseline SICI. Subjects with greater SICI at baseline tended to have reduction in SICI post-rTMS, whereas subjects with less SICI tended to have increase in SICI post-rTMS. There was also a significant lengthening of the CSP with higher stimulation frequencies compared to lower stimulation frequencies. These findings suggest that rTMS increases CI, particularly in subjects with reduced baseline inhibition, a finding consistent with the concept of homeostatic plasticity. Baseline physiological characteristics may be further explored as a method to select patients who may benefit from rTMS treatment.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / radiation effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Motor Cortex / radiation effects*
  • Neural Inhibition / radiation effects*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*