Introduction: The double-cone coil (D-CONE) is frequently used in transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) experiments that target the motor cortex (M1) lower-limb representation. Anecdotal evidence and modeling studies have shed light on the off-target effects of D-CONE TMS but the physiological extent remains undetermined.
Purpose: To characterize the off-target effects of D-CONE TMS based on bilateral corticospinal responses in the legs and hands.
Methods: Thirty (N = 30) participants (9 women, age: 26 ± 5yrs) completed a stimulus-response curve procedure with D-CONE TMS applied to the dominant vastus lateralis (cVL) and motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) recorded in each active VL and resting first dorsal interosseous (FDI). As a positive control (CON), the dominant FDI was directly targeted with a figure-of-eight coil and MEPs were similarly recorded in each active FDI and resting VL. MEPMAX, V50 and MEP latencies were compared with repeated-measures ANOVAs or mixed-effects analysis and Bonferroni-corrected pairwise comparisons.
Results: Off-target responses were evident in all muscles, with similar MEPMAX in the target (cVL) and off-target (iVL) leg (p = 0.99) and cFDI compared with CON (p = 0.99). cFDI and CON MEPMAX were greater than iFDI (p < 0.01). A main effect of target (p < 0.001) indicated that latencies were shorter with CON but similar in all muscles with D-CONE.
Discussion: Concurrent MEP recordings in bilateral upper- and lower-extremity muscles confirm that lower-limb D-CONE TMS produces substantial distance-dependent off-target effects. In addition to monitoring corticospinal responses in off-target muscles to improve targeting accuracy in real-time, future studies may incorporate off-target information into statistical models post-hoc.
Keywords: Corticospinal excitability; Lower limbs; Motor cortex; Motor-evoked potentials; Transcranial magnetic stimulation.