Modulation of motor cortex neuronal networks by rTMS: comparison of local and remote effects of six different protocols of stimulation

J Neurophysiol. 2011 May;105(5):2150-6. doi: 10.1152/jn.00781.2010. Epub 2011 Feb 23.


Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) of human motor cortex can produce long-lasting changes in the excitability of excitatory and inhibitory neuronal networks. The effects of rTMS depend critically on stimulus frequency. The aim of our present study was to compare the effects of different rTMS protocols. We compared the aftereffects of 6 different rTMS protocols [paired associative stimulation at interstimulus intervals of 25 (PAS(25)) and 10 ms (PAS(10)); theta burst stimulation delivered as continuous (cTBS) or intermittent delivery pattern (iTBS); 1- and 5-Hz rTMS] on the excitability of stimulated and contralateral motor cortex in 10 healthy subjects. A pronounced increase of cortical excitability, evaluated by measuring the amplitude of motor evoked potentials (MEPs), was produced by iTBS (+56%) and PAS(25) (+45%). Five-hertz rTMS did not produce a significant increase of MEPs. A pronounced decrease of cortical excitability was produced by PAS(10) (-31%), cTBS (-29%), and 1-Hz rTMS (-20%). Short-interval intracortical inhibition was suppressed by PAS(10). Cortical silent period duration was increased by 1-Hz stimulation. No significant effect was observed in the contralateral hemisphere. Head-to-head comparison of the different protocols enabled us to identify the most effective paradigms for modulating the excitatory and inhibitory circuits activated by TMS.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Young Adult