Repeatability of functional anisotropy in navigated transcranial magnetic stimulation--coil-orientation versus response


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can be used for evaluating the function of motor pathways. According to the principles of electromagnetism and electrophysiology, TMS activates those neurons that are suitably oriented with respect to the TMS-induced electric field. We hypothesized that TMS could potentially be able to evaluate the neuronal structure, although until now, this putative application has not been exploited. We have developed a TMS-based method to evaluate the function and structure of the motor cortex concurrently in a quantitative manner. This method produced a measure, the anisotropy index (AI), which is based on the motor-evoked potentials induced at different coil orientations. The AI was demonstrated to exhibit an association with both motor cortex excitability and neuronal structure. In the present study, we evaluated the repeatability (intrasession and intersession) of AI in three consecutive measurements. In addition, we studied the repeatability of the optimal coil angle in inducing motor-evoked potentials. Two of the measurements were conducted on the same stimulation target and the third on a remapped target. The coefficient of repeatability of the AI was 0.022 for intrasession and 0.040 for intersession assessments. For the optimal stimulation angle, the coefficients of repeatability were 3.7° and 5.1°, respectively. Both the AI and the optimal stimulation angle demonstrated good repeatability (Cronbach’s α>0.760). In conclusion, the results indicate that the AI can provide a reliable estimation of local functional anisotropy changes under conditions affecting the cortex, such as during stroke or focal dysplasia.