The complexities of interpreting results of electrical stimulation of the motor cortex in pathological states are discussed and illustrated by reference to results from a variety of patients with diseases affecting the upper motor neurone (multiple sclerosis, cervical spondylosis and myelopathy, motor neurone disease, hemiparesis due to cerebral infarction, and hereditary spastic paraplegia). The abnormalities of the electromyographic (EMG) responses after anodal cortical stimulation consisted of delay in the latency to onset, dispersion or reduction in response size or even absence of EMG responses. These changes were not confined to any specific condition or pathology. Previous work has suggested that the sequence of events that follow anodal cortical stimulation involves repetitive excitatory inputs to spinal motoneurones and transmission across at least one central synapse. Accordingly, delayed latencies may not exclusively indicate slowing of motor conduction, while the absence of any response may not indicate complete failure of conduction in corticomotoneurone pathways.