Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) delivered at 5 Hz frequency and suprathreshold intensity progressively increases the size of muscle evoked potentials (MEPs) and the duration of the cortical silent period (CSP) in normal subjects. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of topiramate (TPM) at different doses on cortical excitability variables tested with rTMS. We tested the facilitation of the MEP size and CSP duration evoked by focal rTMS in eight patients before and after treatment with TPM at different doses for chronic neuropathic pain. In each patient, rTMS (5 Hz frequency-120% resting motor threshold) was applied at baseline and during the TPM induction phase (drug intake schedule: week I 25 mg/day, week II 50 mg/day, week III 75 mg/day, week IV 100 mg/day) and total TPM plasma concentrations were measured. The effects on the MEP size of 5 Hz-rTMS delivered over repeated sessions were tested in eight control subjects. TPM had no effect on the resting motor threshold. Antiepileptic treatment at increasing doses abolished the normal rTMS-induced MEP facilitation. ANOVA showed that this was a dose-related effect. Accordingly, in patients receiving TPM at higher doses (75 and 100 mg) rTMS failed to elicit the MEP facilitation. TPM left the progressive lengthening of the CSP during the rTMS train unchanged. In control subjects, rTMS applied over repeated sessions elicited a constant increase in MEP size. Our results suggest that TPM modulates the excitatory intracortical interneurons probably by altering rTMS-induced synaptic potentiation. These drug-induced effects are related to TPM doses and plasma concentrations. In conclusion, rTMS may be useful for quantifying the effectiveness of antiepileptic drugs and for assessing individual responses to different drugs but acting through similar mechanisms, thus combining functional neurophysiological information and laboratory data.
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