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J Physiol. 1989 May; 412: 449–473.
PMCID: PMC1190586

Electric and magnetic stimulation of human motor cortex: surface EMG and single motor unit responses.


1. The effects of different forms of brain stimulation on the discharge pattern of single motor units were examined using the post-stimulus time histogram (PSTH) technique and by recording the compound surface electromyographic (EMG) responses in the first dorsal interosseous (FDI) muscle. Electrical and magnetic methods were used to stimulate the brain through the intact scalp of seven normal subjects. Electrical stimuli were applied either with the anode over the lateral central scalp and the cathode at the vertex (anodal stimulation) or with the anode at the vertex and the cathode lateral (cathodal stimulation). Magnetic stimulation used a 9 cm diameter coil centred at the vertex; current in the coil flowed either clockwise or anticlockwise when viewed from above. 2. Supramotor threshold stimuli produced one or more narrow (less than 2 ms) peaks of increased firing in the PSTH of all thirty-two units studied. Anodal stimulation always produced an early peak. The latencies of the peaks produced by other forms of stimulation, or by high intensities of anodal stimulation, were grouped into four time bands relative to this early peak, at intervals of -0.5 to 0.5, 1-2, 2.5-3.5 and 4-5.5 ms later. Peaks occurring within these intervals are referred to as P0 (the earliest anodal), P1, P2 and P3 respectively. 3. At threshold, anodal stimulation evoked only the P0 peak; at higher intensities, the P2 or more commonly the P3 peak also was recruited. The size of the P0 peak appeared to saturate at high intensities. 4. In five of six subjects, cathodal stimulation behaved like anodal stimulation, except that there was a lower threshold for recruitment of the P2 or P3 peak relative to that of the P0 peak. In the other subject, the P3 peak was recruited before the P0 peak. 5. Anticlockwise magnetic [corrected] stimulation, at threshold, often produced several peaks. These always included a P1 peak, and usually a P3 peak. A P0 peak in the PSTH was never produced by an anticlockwise stimulation [corrected] at intensities which we could explore with the technique. 6. Clockwise magnetic [corrected] stimulation never recruited a P1 peak; in most subjects a P3 peak was recruited first and at higher intensities was accompanied by P0 or P2 peaks. 7. On most occasions when more than one peak was observed in a PSTH, the unit fired in only one of the preferred intervals after each shock. However, double firing was seen in five units when high intensities of stimulation were used.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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Selected References

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