We investigated the neurophysiological and clinical effects of repetitive magnetic stimulation (rTMS) delivered to the cortical motor areas in healthy subjects and patients with Parkinson's disease. rTMS was delivered with a high speed magnetic stimulator (Cadwell, Kennewick, WA) through a figure-eight coil centred on the primary motor area at a stimulus intensity of 120% motor threshold. Trains of 10 stimuli were delivered at frequencies of 5 Hz while subjects were at rest and during a voluntary contraction of the contralateral first dorsal interosseous muscle. In normal subjects at rest, the muscle evoked responses (MEPs) to each stimulus in a train of magnetic stimuli progressively increased in size during the train. rTMS left the MEPs unchanged in patients off therapy and had a small facilitatory effect in those on therapy. In normal subjects and patients, 5-Hz rTMS trains delivered during a voluntary contraction of the target muscle left the MEP unchanged in size. MEPs were followed by a silent period that increased in duration during the course of the train. The silent period duration increased to a similar extent in patients and controls. The reduced rTMS-induced facilitation of MEPs in patients with Parkinson's disease reflects a decreased facilitation of the excitatory cells in the cortical motor areas. © 2002 Movement Disorder Society.