The spectral features of EEG responses to transcranial magnetic stimulation of the primary motor cortex depend on the amplitude of the motor evoked potentials

PLoS One. 2017 Sep 14;12(9):e0184910. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0184910. eCollection 2017.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the primary motor cortex (M1) can excite both cortico-cortical and cortico-spinal axons resulting in TMS-evoked potentials (TEPs) and motor-evoked potentials (MEPs), respectively. Despite this remarkable difference with other cortical areas, the influence of motor output and its amplitude on TEPs is largely unknown. Here we studied TEPs resulting from M1 stimulation and assessed whether their waveform and spectral features depend on the MEP amplitude. To this aim, we performed two separate experiments. In experiment 1, single-pulse TMS was applied at the same supra-threshold intensity on primary motor, prefrontal, premotor and parietal cortices and the corresponding TEPs were compared by means of local mean field power and time-frequency spectral analysis. In experiment 2 we stimulated M1 at resting motor threshold in order to elicit MEPs characterized by a wide range of amplitudes. TEPs computed from high-MEP and low-MEP trials were then compared using the same methods applied in experiment 1. In line with previous studies, TMS of M1 produced larger TEPs compared to other cortical stimulations. Notably, we found that only TEPs produced by M1 stimulation were accompanied by a late event-related desynchronization (ERD-peaking at ~300 ms after TMS), whose magnitude was strongly dependent on the amplitude of MEPs. Overall, these results suggest that M1 produces peculiar responses to TMS possibly reflecting specific anatomo-functional properties, such as the re-entry of proprioceptive feedback associated with target muscle activation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*

Grants and funding

This work has been partially funded by the LUMINOUS Project. This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme H2020-FETOPEN-2014-2015-RIA under agreement No. 686764. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 720270 (HBP SGA1). This study has been partially funded by the grant "Sinergia" CRSII3_160803/1 by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award 2013, and the Grant "Giovani Ricercatori" GR-2011-02352031 from the Italian Ministry of Health (to MR).