Afferent excitation of human motor cortex as revealed by enhancement of direct cortico-spinal actions on motoneurones

F. Baldissera, L. Leocani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Changes in motor cortex excitability induced by somatosensory afferences were evaluated in 5 subjects by testing how the short-latency cortico-spinal effects evoked by transcranial magnetic stimulation in flexor carpi radialis (FCR) motoneurones were influenced by volleys in median nerve afferent fibres. Transcranial magnetic stimulation induced two facilitatory peaks on FCR H reflex, the first at a conditioning-test interval of about -3 msec and the second at 0 msec, separated by a phase of inhibition. If an electric shock to the median nerve at the wrist, 0.8-1 × motor threshold (MT) for thenar muscles, preceded the cortical stimulus by 18-25 msec, an increase in size of both facilitatory peaks was observed. The increase was partly due to a direct action of the median nerve volley on motoneurones. When this contribution was subtracted, two peaks of additional facilitation resulted as the effect of combined conditioning. Additional facilitation was present even during the short-lasting phase ascribed to monosynaptic cortico-spinal excitation of motoneurones, i.e., the first millisecond of the earliest facilitatory peak. This result indicates that cortical responsiveness to magnetic stimulation had been enhanced by the peripheral stimulus. The time course of the excitability changes in motor cortex was compared with the cortical somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) induced by the same peripheral stimulus. Additional facilitation was present immediately after the N20 peak of SEPs and lasted 8-10 msec. Additional facilitation had the same threshold as N20 (0.6 × MT) and grew in parallel with it when grading the afferent stimulus up to 1 MT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-401
Number of pages8
JournalElectroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology - Electromyography and Motor Control
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1995


  • H reflex
  • Magnetic stimulation
  • Motor cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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