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Clin Neurophysiol. 2000 May;111(5):794-9.

Direct demonstration of the effect of lorazepam on the excitability of the human motor cortex.

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  • 1Istituto di Neurologia, Universit√† Cattolica, L.go A. Gemelli 8, 00168, Rome, Italy.



The present study explored the effects of lorazepam, a benzodiazepine with agonist action at the GABA(A) receptor, on human motor cortex excitability as tested using transcranial magnetic stimulation.


We recorded directly the descending volley evoked by single and paired transcranial magnetic stimulation from the spinal cord of a conscious subject with a cervical epidural electrode before and after a single oral dose of lorazepam. We evaluated the effects of lorazepam on the descending volleys evoked by a single magnetic stimulation and paired cortical stimulation using the intracortical inhibition paradigm (subthreshold conditioning stimulus) and the short latency intracortical facilitation paradigm (suprathreshold conditioning stimulus).


Using a single magnetic stimulus lorazepam decreased the amplitude of the later I waves in the descending volley; this was accompanied by a decrease in the amplitude of the evoked EMG response. Using the intracortical inhibition paradigm lorazepam increased the amount of corticocortical inhibition, particularly at 4 and 5 ms interstimulus intervals. There was no effect on the amount of facilitation observed in the short latency intracortical facilitation paradigm.


The present findings provide direct evidence that lorazepam increases the excitability of inhibitory circuits in the human motor cortex.

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