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Keywords:

  • cortico-spinal excitability;
  • cTBS;
  • human;
  • oscillations;
  • TMS-evoked potentials

Abstract

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a useful tool to induce and measure plasticity in the human brain. However, the cortical effects are generally indirectly evaluated with motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) reflective of modulation of cortico-spinal excitability. In this study, we aim to provide direct measures of cortical plasticity by combining TMS with electroencephalography (EEG). Continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS) was applied over the primary motor cortex (M1) of young healthy adults, and we measured modulation of (i) MEPs, (ii) TMS-induced EEG evoked potentials (TEPs), (iii) TMS-induced EEG synchronization and (iv) eyes-closed resting EEG. Our results show the expected cTBS-induced decrease in MEP size, which we found to be paralleled by a modulation of a combination of TEPs. Furthermore, we found that cTBS increased the power in the theta band of eyes-closed resting EEG, whereas it decreased single-pulse TMS-induced power in the theta and alpha bands. In addition, cTBS decreased the power in the beta band of eyes-closed resting EEG, whereas it increased single-pulse TMS-induced power in the beta band. We suggest that cTBS acts by modulating the phase alignment between already active oscillators; it synchronizes low-frequency (theta and/or alpha) oscillators and desynchronizes high-frequency (beta) oscillators. These results provide novel insight into the cortical effects of cTBS and could be useful for exploring cTBS-induced plasticity outside of the motor cortex.