Effects of pulse width, waveform and current direction in the cortex: A combined cTMS-EEG study

Brain Stimul. Sep-Oct 2018;11(5):1063-1070. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2018.04.015. Epub 2018 Apr 24.


Background: the influence of pulse width, pulse waveform and current direction on transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) outcomes is of critical importance. However, their effects have only been investigated indirectly with motor-evoked potentials (MEP). By combining TMS and EEG it is possible to examine how these factors affect evoked activity from the cortex and compare that with the effects on MEP.

Objective: we used a new controllable TMS device (cTMS) to vary systematically pulse width, pulse waveform and current direction and explore their effects on global and local TMS-evoked EEG response.

Methods: In 19 healthy volunteers we measured (1) resting motor threshold (RMT) as an estimate of corticospinal excitability; (2) global mean field power (GMFP) as an estimate of global cortical excitability; and (3) local mean field power (LMFP) as an estimate of local cortical excitability.

Results: RMT was lower with monophasic posterior-to-anterior (PA) pulses that have a longer pulse width (p < 0.001). After adjusting for the individual motor threshold of each pulse type we found that (a) GMFP was higher with monophasic pulses (p < 0.001); (b) LMFP was higher with longer pulse width (p = 0.015); (c) early TEP polarity was modulated depending on the current direction (p = 0.01).

Conclusions: Despite normalizing stimulus intensity to RMT, we found that local and global responses to TMS vary depending on pulse parameters. Since EEG responses can vary independently of the MEP, titrating parameters of TMS in relation to MEP threshold is not a useful way of ensuring that a constant set of neurons is activated within a cortical area.

Keywords: EEG; Motor cortex; Pulse waveform; Pulse width; TMS; cTMS.

MeSH terms

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