Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the human primary motor cortex (M1) at suprathreshold strength results in inhibition of M1 in the opposite hemisphere, a process termed interhemispheric inhibition (IHI). Two phases of IHI, termed short-latency interhemispheric inhibition (SIHI) and long-latency interhemispheric inhibition (LIHI), involving separate neural circuits, have been identified. In this study we evaluated how these two inhibitory processes interact with each other. We studied 10 healthy right-handed subjects. A test stimulus (TS) was delivered to the left M1, and motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were recorded from the right first dorsal interosseous (FDI) muscle. Contralateral conditioning stimuli (CCS) were applied to the right M1 either 10 ms or 50 ms prior to the TS, inducing SIHI and LIHI, respectively, in the left M1. The effects of SIHI and LIHI alone, and SIHI and LIHI delivered together, were compared. The TS was adjusted to produce 1-mV or 0.5-mV MEPs when applied alone or after CCS. SIHI and LIHI were found to be additive when delivered together, irrespective of the strength of the TS. The interactions were affected neither by varying the strength of the conditioning stimulus producing SIHI nor by altering the current direction of the TS. Small or opposing interactions, however, may not have been detected. These results support previous findings suggesting that SIHI and LIHI act through different neural circuits. Such inhibitory processes may be used individually or additively during motor tasks and should be studied as separate processes in functional studies.
Keywords: interhemispheric inhibition; motor cortex; transcranial magnetic stimulation.