Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is associated with altered cortical excitability. The relevance of this to the need for non-invasive ventilation is not known. We assessed the diaphragm response to transcranial magnetic stimulation in terms of motor threshold and latency as well as assessing intracortical excitability using paired stimulation in eight long-term users and six non-users of home ventilation with COPD. Overall, intracortical facilitation was strongly correlated with inspiratory muscle strength (r2 0.72, p<0.001) whereas intracortical inhibition was correlated with PaCO2 (r2 0.51, p=0.01). The two groups did not differ in motor evoked potential or latency, nor in the excitability of intracortical inhibitory or facilitatory circuits assessed using paired stimulation. The acute effect of isocapnic non-invasive ventilation was studied in six established ventilator users. Diaphragm motor evoked potential fell but there was no effect on intracortical facilitation or inhibition, implying an effect of neuromechanical feedback at brainstem or spinal level.
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