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Int J Psychophysiol. 2003 Apr;48(1):25-33.

Magnetic stimulation of motor and somatosensory cortices suppresses perception of ulnar nerve stimuli.

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Department of Physiology, The University of Adelaide, Australia.


Magnetic stimulation of sensorimotor cortex interferes with the detection of electro-cutaneous stimulation. However, it is uncertain whether this interference is due to activation of the somatosensory or the motor cortex. Here, transcranial magnetic stimuli (TMS) were delivered separately over somatosensory and motor cortex contralateral to the right ulnar nerve in 12 subjects. In separate trials, TMS were given 100 ms before and 20 ms after 60 ms trains of electro-cutaneous ulnar nerve stimuli, and their effect on the subjective perception of peripheral stimuli was assessed. TMS of both motor and somatosensory cortex interfered with the perception of afferent stimuli when given before or after stimulation of the ulnar nerve. Perception was more strongly suppressed by motor cortex stimulation than by somatosensory cortex stimulation, when given before or after the peripheral stimulus. A similar proportion of errors was induced by sensory cortex stimulation between the two stimulus timing intervals. This study suggests that the inhibition of the afferent volley is unlikely to be the result of antidromic activation of thalamocortical connections or corticospinal gating. A phenomenon akin to sensory masking is the most plausible explanation for much of the suppression of sensory perception by stimulation of the motor or somatosensory cortex. The more powerful suppressive effect of motor cortex stimulation may be due to multiple mechanisms.

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