Intracortical circuits modulate transcallosal inhibition in humans


  • L. Avanzino and J. T. H. Teo contributed equally to this work.

Corresponding author J. Teo: Sobell Dept of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, Box 66, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK. Email:


Previous results using paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) have suggested that the excitability of transcallosal (TC) connections between the hand areas of the two motor cortices is modulated by intracortical inhibitory circuits in the same way as corticospinal tract (CTS) projections to spinal motoneurons. Here we describe two further similarities in TC and CTS control using (1) an I-wave facilitation protocol and (2) preconditioning with rTMS. In experiment 1, excitability of TC pathways was measured using interhemispheric inhibition (IHI) and the ipsilateral silent period (iSP), whilst excitability of CTS pathways was measured by recording the EMG response evoked in the first dorsal interosseous muscle contralateral to the conditioning stimulus (cMEP). The intensity of the conditioning stimulus was first adjusted to threshold for evoking IHI and iSP, then pairs of conditioning stimuli were applied randomly at interstimulus intervals (ISIs) from 1.3 to 4.3 ms. IHI and iSP were facilitated at ISI = 1.5 ms and 3.0 ms, respectively, as was the MEP evoked by the conditioning stimuli in the contralateral hand. We suggest that TC projections receive I-wave-like facilitation similar to that seen in CTS projections. In experiment 2, short interval inhibition of the iSP (SICIiSP), and short interval intracortical inhibition of the cMEP (SICIcMEP) were examined before and after 600 pulses of 5 Hz rTMS at 90% resting motor threshold. Both SICIiSP and SICIcMEP were reduced, as was the iSP; the cMEP was unchanged. This shows that the population of inhibitory interneurons that control TC neurons respond in the same way to 5 Hz rTMS as those that control CTS neurons. Taken together, the data from the two experiments suggest that the layer III and layer V pyramidal neurons that give rise to TC and CTS pathways, respectively, are controlled by neuronal circuitry with similar properties.