Transcranial magnetic stimulation of the human brain: responses in muscles supplied by cranial nerves

Exp Brain Res. 1988;71(3):623-32. doi: 10.1007/BF00248756.


The present investigation demonstrates that time-varying magnetic fields induced over the skull elicit distinct types of responses in muscles supplied by the cranial nerves both on the ipsilateral and the contralateral side. When the center of the copper coil was positioned 4 cm lateral to the vertex on a line from the vertex to the external auditory meatus, bilateral responses in the masseter, orbicularis oculi, mentalis, and sternocleidomastoideus muscles with a delay of about 10 to 14 ms after the stimulus occurred. Similar to the transcranially evoked muscle responses in hand muscles, the responses in the cranial muscles can be influenced in latency and amplitude by background excitation. It is concluded that these responses are induced by excitation of the face-associated motor cortex followed by multiple I-waves in the corticonuclear tract with both ipsilateral and contralateral projections to the corresponding motoneurones. Additionally, at higher stimulation strengths "short-latency" ipsilateral responses in muscles supplied by the trigeminal, facial, and accessory nerves occurred which we suggest are induced by direct stimulation of the peripheral cranial nerves in their intracisternal course. The present study confirms the bilateral projection of corticonuclear tracts in awake unanesthetised human subjects which has been observed by electrical stimulation on the exposed cortex during surgical procedures already decades ago. The present investigation will serve as a basis for the assessment of pathophysiological mechanisms involving the corticonuclear system or the peripheral cranial nerves in their proximal parts in awake humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cranial Nerves / physiology*
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Electromagnetic Phenomena*
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Muscles / innervation*
  • Reaction Time / physiology