Background Recently, it was shown that the highly variable after-effect of continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) of the primary motor cortex (M1) can be predicted by the latency of motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) recorded before cTBS. This suggests that at least part of this inter-individual variability is driven by differences in the neuronal populations preferentially activated by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
Methods Here, we recorded MEPs, TMS-evoked brain potentials (TEPs) and somatosensory-evoked potentials (SEPs) to investigate the effects of cTBS delivered over the primary sensorimotor cortex on both the ipsilateral and contralateral M1, and the ipsilateral and contralateral primary somatosensory cortex (S1).
Results We confirm that the after-effects of cTBS can be predicted by the latency of MEPs recorded before cTBS. Over the hemisphere onto which cTBS was delivered, short-latency MEPs at baseline were associated with an increase of MEP magnitude (i.e. an excitatory effect of cTBS) whereas late-latency MEPs were associated with reduced MEPs (i.e. an inhibitory effect of cTBS). This relationship was reversed over the contralateral hemisphere, indicating opposite effects of cTBS on the responsiveness of the ipsilateral and contralateral M1. Baseline MEP latencies also predicted changes in the magnitude of the N100 wave of TEPs elicited by stimulation of the ipsilateral and contralateral hemisphere, indicating that this TEP component is specifically dependent on the state of M1. Finally, there was a reverse relationship between MEP latency and the effects of cTBS on the SEP waveforms (50–130 ms), indicating that after-effects of cTBS on S1 are opposite to those on M1.
Conclusion Taken together, our results confirm that the variable after-effects of cTBS can be explained by differences in the neuronal populations activated by TMS. Furthermore, our results show that this variability also determines remote effects of cTBS in S1 and the contralateral hemisphere, compatible with inter-hemispheric and sensorimotor interactions.