Interaction of transcranial magnetic stimulation and electrical transmastoid stimulation in human subjects



Transcranial magnetic stimulation activates corticospinal neurones directly and transsynaptically and hence, activates motoneurones and results in a response in the muscle. Transmastoid stimulation results in a similar muscle response through activation of axons in the spinal cord. This study was designed to determine whether the two stimuli activate the same descending axons. Responses to transcranial magnetic stimuli paired with electrical transmastoid stimuli were examined in biceps brachii in human subjects. Twelve interstimulus intervals (ISIs) from −6 ms (magnet before transmastoid) to 5 ms were investigated. When responses to the individual stimuli were set at 10-15 % of the maximal M-wave, responses to the paired stimuli were larger than expected at ISIs of −6 and −5 ms but were reduced in size at ISIs of −2 to 1 ms and at 3 to 5 ms. With individual responses of 3-5 % of maximal M-wave, facilitation still occurred at ISIs of −6 and −5 ms and depression of the paired response at ISIs of 0, 1, 4 and 5 ms. The interaction of the response to transmastoid stimulation with the multiple descending volleys elicited by magnetic stimulation of the cortex is complex. However, depression of the response to the paired stimuli at short ISIs is consistent with an occlusive interaction in which an antidromic volley evoked by the transmastoid stimulus collides with and annihilates descending action potentials evoked by the transcranial magnetic stimulus. Thus, it is consistent with the two stimuli activating some of the same corticospinal axons.