Abnormal responses to repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in multiple system atrophy



We studied the response of the motor cortex to brief trains of suprathreshold repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulations (rTMS) in patients with the Parkinson-variant of multiple system atrophy (MSA-P) and compared it to patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD) and healthy controls. Eight subjects were studied in each group, and patients were matched for disease severity as assessed by Hoehn & Yahr stages. rTMS was delivered at rest and during low-level contractions in trains of 10 stimulations at 5 Hz, and stimulation intensity was set to result in an motor evoked potential (MEP) in the first dorsal interosseus muscle of 0.5 to 1.0 mV. In MSA-P, MEP amplitude at rest was already reduced after the second stimulus and remained so, while it did not change in PD and controls. During contraction, MEP size did not change during the train in any group. The silent period that followed the last stimulus was of similar duration as the first stimulus in MSA-P, but was increased in PD and controls. These findings indicate that abnormal inhibition occurs within the motor cortex in MSA-P, despite dopaminergic treatment and indicate differences in cortical dysfunction between MSA-P and PD. We suggest that these abnormalities reflect the motor cortex pathology found in MSA-P. © 2006 Movement Disorder Society