Magnetic stimuli applied over motor and visual cortex: influence of coil position and field polarity on motor responses, phosphenes, and eye movements

Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol Suppl. 1991;43:121-34.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation was performed over the motor and visual cortex with the Novametrix 12-cm diameter stimulation coil. The influence of coil position on the size of electromyographic responses and on the intensity and position of phosphenes in the binocular visual field was studied. Furthermore, it was investigated whether stimulation over the visual cortex or over the frontal eye field evoked or disturbed eye movements. Coil position was recorded by constructing grids on the skull surface using extracranial bony landmarks, and was then related individually to underlying cerebral sulci by analysis of magnetic resonance images of the brain. Motor responses. Excitatory effects were maximal when the coil windings in the middle of the coil ring lay over the particular motor representation field of area 4. The response size depended on the direction of the coil currents passing over the motor cortex. For example, coil currents passing over the lateral part of the precentral gyrus from the front and transversely to the central sulcus elicited maximal responses in hand muscles. With the currents passing over the same area in the opposite direction, response amplitudes were much smaller, suggesting activation of different inputs to cortical motoneurons. Phosphenes. Fields of fixed, white and unstructured phosphens occurred in the lower half of the visual field when the coil center was placed about 7 cm anterior to the inion on the inion-nasion line. Counterclockwise or clockwise coil currents elicited phosphenes within the left or right lower quadrant of the binocular visual field, respectively, which could be attributed to an activation of the right or left primary visual cortex (area 17). The 'cortical' phosphenes moved with voluntary eye movements, but not during caloric and optokinetic nystagmus. Phosphenes resulting from an excitation of the optic nerve rather than the retina could be evoked by stimulation over frontal parts of the skull. Eye movements. The application of single magnetic field pulses over the frontal eye field or over the visual cortex did not elicit eye movements except for small vertical eye movements as part of a magnetically elicited blink.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electromyography
  • Eye Movements*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetics*
  • Methods
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement
  • Phosphenes / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*