Short-term cortical plasticity in patients with dystonia: A study with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation



Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) delivered at 5 Hz frequency and suprathreshold (RMT) intensity produces a progressive facilitation of motor-evoked potential (MEP) amplitude that outlasts the end of stimulation. This phenomenon is related to a short-term enhancement of cortical excitatory interneurones. In this study, we investigated whether 5 Hz-rTMS elicits similar MEP facilitation during stimulation and similar facilitatory after-effects in patients with upper limb dystonia and healthy subjects. Trains of 5, 10, and 20 stimuli were delivered at 120% RMT over the primary motor cortex with the subjects at rest. rTMS-trains were followed by single test stimuli delivered at various interstimulus intervals (0.5–10 s) at 120% RMT using a conditioning-test paradigm. Single conditioning stimuli were also delivered. The effects of suprathreshold 1 Hz-rTMS were also tested. The MEP amplitude during the course of the trains and of the test stimuli was measured. In control experiments, we investigated the role of the afferent inputs elicited by muscle twitches after ulnar nerve stimulation on the MEP amplitude. In patients and healthy subjects, MEP amplitude increased significantly during the course of 5 Hz-trains. In both groups the MEP facilitation outlasted the end of 5 Hz-rTMS, however the facilitatory after-effects were more pronounced and lasted longer in patients than in healthy subjects. MEP amplitudes during and after 1 Hz-rTMS remained unchanged. Ulnar nerve stimulation did not change the test MEP amplitude. We conclude that in patients with upper limb dystonia there is an abnormal recovery from MEP facilitation after suprathreshold 5 Hz-rTMS suggesting an abnormal pattern of short-term cortical plasticity. © 2007 Movement Disorder Society