Non-invasive evaluation of central motor tract excitability changes following peripheral nerve stimulation in healthy humans

R. Mariorenzi, F. Zarola, M. D. Caramia, C. Paradiso, P. M. Rossini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The interval between muscle stretch and the onset of the long latency electromyographic responses (LLRs) has been theoretically fragmented into an afferent time (AT), taken at the peak of wave N20 of somatosensory evoked potentials and an efferent time (ET), calculated by means of magnetic transcranial stimulation (TCS), the two being separated by a cortical interval (CI). If this were the case, the afferent input should progressively 'energize' the sensorimotor cortex during the CI and change the excitability of cortico-spinal tracts. To investigate this, motor evoked potentials (MEPs) from thumb flexor muscles were recorded, whilst a conditioning stimulation of median or ulnar nerve randomly preceded (10-48 msec intervals) magnetic brain TCS. Nerve stimulation was adjusted to motor threshold and amplitudes of conditioned and test MEPs at different nerve-TCS interstimulus intervals were evaluated. Conditioned MEPs were significantly attenuated with nerve-TCS intervals between 16 and 20 msec for elbow and 20 and 22 msec for wrist stimulation. This was followed by MEP potentiation with nerve-TCS intervals corresponding to the sum of AT + CI (mean 23.2 msec, range 21.7-24.8). The onset latency of facilitated conditioned MEPs was about 1 msec briefer than than that of test MEPs, but invariably longer than the latency of MEPs facilitated by a voluntary contraction. This protocol did not demonstrate amplitude facilitation of the segmental H reflex, corroborating the idea that the facilitated part of the conditioning nerve-TCS curve receives a transcortical loop contribution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-101
Number of pages12
JournalElectroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology - Evoked Potentials
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1991


  • Brain stimulation
  • Evoked potentials
  • Facilitation
  • Inhibition
  • Long-loop responses
  • Motor tract
  • Nerve stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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