Spontaneous locally restricted EEG alpha activity determines cortical excitability in the motor cortex

Neuropsychologia. 2009 Jan;47(1):284-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.07.021. Epub 2008 Aug 3.


There is growing interest in the functional meaning of rhythmical brain activity. For oscillatory brain activity around 10 Hz in the human electroencephalogram (EEG) it is discussed whether it is associated with the level of cortical excitation. However, it is not clear whether the relation between 10 Hz EEG oscillatory activity and cortical excitability is a global, locally very unspecific phenomenon or whether focal 10 Hz oscillations in the human brain are a highly specific correlate of the cortical excitation level. To determine this open question, multichannel EEG was combined with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) applied to the primary motor cortex in this study. The present data showed that a motor evoked potential was elicited more easily when alpha power immediately preceding the magnetic pulse was low, and vice versa. Interestingly, this effect was only found for very local EEG alpha activity at sites overlying the cortical motor areas to which the TMS pulses were applied. This was verified using source localization in 3D space. These data provide evidence that the magnitude of motor cortical excitability is determined by the amount of topographically specific alpha oscillations in the sensorimotor cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alpha Rhythm*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cortical Spreading Depression / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Spectrum Analysis
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods
  • Young Adult