The effect of magnetic brain stimulation on postural wrist tremor was studied in 10 patients with Parkinson's disease, 12 with hereditary essential tremor, and 10 normal subjects who mimicked tremor by making rapid alternating wrist movements. In all patients and normal subjects, magnetic brain stimulation over the contralateral motor cortex at an intensity approximately 10% above threshold produced the following sequence of events: (1) a small direct electromyographic (EMG) response, followed by (2) suppression of the rhythmic EMG activity responsible for the tremor, before (3) reappearance of the tremor time-locked to the stimulus. It is concluded that magnetic brain stimulation over the motor cortex can modulate the oscillatory mechanisms responsible for the generation of postural tremors. Group analysis revealed that the time to reappearance of rhythmic EMG activity varied significantly with the period of parkinsonian postural tremors, but not with the period of essential or mimicked tremors. Magnetic stimulation also significantly shortened the period of parkinsonian postural tremors, but did not influence the period of essential or mimicked tremors. These behavioral differences indicate differences in the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying parkinsonian postural tremor and essential tremor.