'Excitability' changes of muscular responses to magnetic brain stimulation in patients with central motor disorders

Maria D. Caramia, Paola Cicinelli, Claudio Paradiso, Roberto Mariorenzi, Flora Zarola, Giorgio Bernardi, Paolo M. Rossini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The 'excitability' and 'conductivity' of motor pathways during transcranial stimulation (TCS) have been investigated in 49 patients affected by multiple sclerosis (34), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (7), spino-cerebellar ataxia (3), primary lateral sclerosis (4) and brain metastasis (1). Hyper-reflexia, spasticity and weakness were correlated with the central motor conduction time (CCT) and with the threshold intensity of TCS required to produce a motor evoked potential (MEP). MEPs to magnetic TCS were recorded from hand and foot muscles during relaxation, contraction and after tendon vibration. Thresholds and CCTs of the patients were compared with those of 30 healthy controls. Increased threshold was found in 37 out of 49 patients (75.5%). Prolongation of the CCT was found in 38 out of 63 clinically affected upper limbs (60.3%) and in 56 out of 77 clinically affected lower limbs (72.7%). Absent motor responses to maximal TCS were found in 20 out of 98 lower limbs (20.4%). Excluding ALS patients (in whom there was a lower threshold for MEP elicitation), a significant linear correlation was found between prolonged CCT and increased threshold. While MEPs with prolonged CCTs have elevated TCS threshold, it is important to note that an elevated threshold was found in 14 out of 49 patients (28.5%) despite unchanged CCT. Spasticity and/or hyper-reflexia were more frequently associated with increased threshold than with prolonged CCT, while weakness was correlated equally well with both these parameters. In this respect magnetic TCS proves to represent a new tool for the detection of abnormal 'excitability' of the central motor tracts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-250
Number of pages8
JournalElectroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology - Evoked Potentials
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1991


  • Brain stimulation
  • Excitability
  • Motor disorders
  • Spasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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