Modulation of corticomotor excitability by an I-wave intervention delivered during low-level voluntary contraction

B. I. Silbert, J. T. Gibbons, R. H. F. Cash, F. L. Mastaglia, G. W. Thickbroom

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Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) interventions that modulate cortical plasticity may achieve a more functional benefit if combined with neuro-rehabilitation therapies. With a TMS protocol targeting I-wave dynamics, it is possible to deliver stimuli while a subject performs a motor task, and this may more effectively target functional networks related to the task. However, the efficacy of this intervention during a simple task such as a low-level voluntary contraction is not known. We delivered paired-pulse TMS at an inter-pulse interval (IPI) of 1.5 ms for 15 min while subjects performed a 10 ± 2.5% voluntary contraction of the first dorsal interosseous (FDI) muscle and made motor evoked potential (MEP) amplitude and short-interval intracortical facilitation (SICF) curve measurements. Pre-intervention SICF curves showed only a single peak at 1.3-1.5 ms IPI. During the intervention, MEP amplitude steadily increased (P < 0.001) to 137 ± 13% of its initial value. After the intervention, SICF curves were increased in amplitude (P < 0.001) and later peaks emerged at 2.8 and 4.3 ms IPIs. A control experiment, replacing paired-pulse stimulation with single-pulse stimulation showed no effect on MEP amplitude (P = 0.951). We conclude that the I-wave intervention can be administered concurrently with a simple motor task and that it acts by increasing trans-synaptic efficacy across a number of I-waves. The ability to perform a motor task simultaneously with a TMS intervention could confer a degree of specificity to the induced excitability changes and may be beneficial for functional neuro-rehabilitation programs built around motor learning and retraining.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-235
Number of pages7
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Intervention
  • SICF
  • TMS
  • Voluntary contraction

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