Objective: To investigate the efficacy of magnetic stimulation over the posterior fossa (PF) as a non-invasive assessment of cerebellar function in man.
Methods: We replicated a previously reported conditioning-test paradigm in 11 healthy subjects. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) at varying intensities was applied to the PF and motor cortex with a 3, 5 or 7 ms interstimulus interval (ISI), chosen randomly for each trial. Surface electromyogram (EMG) activity was recorded from two intrinsic hand muscles and two forearm muscles. Responses were averaged and rectified, and MEP amplitudes were compared to assess whether suppression of the motor output occurred as a result of the PF conditioning pulse.
Results: Cortical MEPs were suppressed following conditioning-test ISIs of 5 or 7 ms. No suppression occurred with an ISI of 3 ms. PF stimuli alone also produced EMG responses, suggesting direct activation of the corticospinal tract (CST).
Conclusions: CST collaterals are known to contact cortical inhibitory interneurones; antidromic CST activation could therefore contribute to the observed suppression of cortical MEPs.
Significance: PF stimulation probably activates multiple pathways; even at low intensities it should not be regarded as a selective assessment of cerebellar function unless stringent controls can confirm the absence of confounding activity in other pathways.