Oscillatory TMS-EEG-Responses as a Measure of the Cortical Excitability Threshold


Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive tool to perturb brain activity. In TMS studies, the stimulation intensity (SI) is commonly normalized to the resting motor threshold (rMT) that produces muscle responses in 50% of stimulations applied to the motor cortex (M1). Since rMT is influenced by spinal excitability and coil-to-cortex distance, responses recorded from the cortex, instead of a peripheral muscle, could provide a more accurate marker for cortical excitability. Combining TMS with electroencephalography (EEG) enables the measurement of brain-wide cortical reactivity to TMS. We quantified TMS-induced changes in oscillatory power and the phase of EEG with event-related spectral perturbation (ERSP) and inter-trial coherence (ITC). We studied the SI-dependency of ERSP and ITC responses by stimulating the dominant M1 of ten healthy volunteers using single-pulse TMS with 150 pulses at 60%, 80%, 100%, and 120% of rMT. We found SI-dependent ERSP and ITC responses in M1, most notably with the wide-band (8-70 Hz) early ITC responses averaged 20-60 ms after TMS. With approximately linear SI-dependence, the early ITC response was consistent between SIs (intraclass correlation = 0.78, p < 0.001). Our results reveal the potential of oscillatory EEG responses, in place of rMT, as a measure of the cortical excitability threshold in M1.

IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering