Simply longer is not better: reversal of theta burst after-effect with prolonged stimulation

Exp Brain Res. 2010 Jul;204(2):181-7. doi: 10.1007/s00221-010-2293-4. Epub 2010 Jun 22.


From all rTMS protocols at present, the theta burst stimulation (TBS) is considered the most efficient in terms of number of impulses and intensity required during a given stimulation. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of inhibitory and excitatory TBS protocols on motor cortex excitability when the duration of stimulation was doubled. Fourteen healthy volunteers were tested under four conditions: intermittent theta bust stimulation (iTBS), continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS), prolonged intermittent theta bust stimulation (ProiTBS) and prolonged continuous theta burst stimulation (ProcTBS). The prolonged paradigms were twice as long as the conventional TBS protocols. Conventional facilitatory iTBS converted into inhibitory when it was applied for twice as long, while the normally inhibitory cTBS became facilitatory when the stimulation duration was doubled. Our results show that TBS-induced plasticity cannot be deliberately enhanced simply by prolonging TBS protocols. Instead, when stimulating too long, after-effects will be reversed. This finding supplements findings at the short end of the stimulation duration range, where it was shown that conventional cTBS is excitatory in the first half and switches to inhibition only after the full length protocol. It is relevant for clinical applications for which an ongoing need for further protocol improvement is imminent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Theta Rhythm*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation