Variability and predictors of response to continuous theta burst stimulation: A TMS-EEG study

Lorenzo Rocchi, Jaime Ibáñez, Alberto Benussi, Ricci Hannah, Vishal Rawji, Elias Casula, John Rothwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) is a repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation paradigm reported to decrease the excitability of the stimulated cortical area and which is thought to reflect a form of inhibitory synaptic plasticity. However, since its introduction, the effect of cTBS has shown a remarkable variability in its effects, which are often quantified by measuring the amplitude of motor evoked potentials (MEPs). Part of this inconsistency in experimental results might be due to an intrinsic variability of TMS effects caused by genetic or neurophysiologic factors. However, it is also possible that MEP only reflect the excitability of a sub-population of output neurons; resting EEG power and measures combining TMS and electroencephalography (TMS-EEG) might represent a more thorough reflection of cortical excitability. The aim of the present study was to verify the robustness of several predictors of cTBS response, such as I wave recruitment and baseline MEP amplitude, and to test cTBS after-effects on multiple neurophysiologic measurements such as MEP, resting EEG power, local mean field power (LMFP), TMS-related spectral perturbation (TRSP), and inter-trial phase clustering (ITPC). As a result, we were not able to confirm either the expected decrease of MEP amplitude after cTBS or the ability of I wave recruitment and MEP amplitude to predict the response to cTBS. Resting EEG power, LMFP, TRSP, and ITPC showed a more consistent trend toward a decrease after cTBS. Overall, our data suggest that the effect of cTBS on corticospinal excitability is variable and difficult to predict with common electrophysiologic markers, while its effect might be clearer when probed with combined TMS and EEG.

Original languageEnglish
Article number400
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberJUN
Publication statusPublished - Jun 12 2018


  • Electroencephalography (EEG)
  • Motor evoked potentials (MEPs)
  • Plasticity
  • Theta-burst stimulation
  • Time-frequency analysis
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Variability and predictors of response to continuous theta burst stimulation: A TMS-EEG study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this