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Clin Neurophysiol. 2005 Dec;116(12):2748-56. Epub 2005 Oct 26.

Transcranial magnetic and electrical stimulation compared: does TES activate intracortical neuronal circuits?

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Department of Neurology, Berlin NeuroImaging Center, Charité, Germany.



To determine whether, and under which conditions, transcranial electrical stimulation (TES) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can activate similar neuronal structures of the human motor cortex, as indicated by electromyographic recordings.


Focal TMS was performed on three subjects inducing a postero-anterior directed current (p-a), TES with postero-anteriorly (p-a) and latero-medially (l-m) oriented electrodes. We analyzed the onset latencies and amplitudes (single-pulse) and intracortical inhibition and excitation (paired-pulse).


TMS p-a and TES p-a produced muscle responses with the same onset latency, while TES l-m led to 1.4-1.9 ms shorter latencies. Paired-pulse TMS p-a and TES p-a induced inhibition at short inter-stimulus intervals (ISI) (maximum: 2-3 ms) and facilitation at longer ISIs (maximum: 10 ms). No inhibition but a strong facilitation was obtained from paired-pulse TES l-m (ISIs 1-5 ms).


Our findings support the hypothesis, that current direction is the most relevant factor in determining the mode of activation for both TMS and TES: TMS p-a and TES p-a are likely to activate the corticospinal neurons indirectly. In contrast, TES l-m may preferentially activate the corticospinal fibres directly, distant of the neuronal body.


TES is a suitable tool to induce intracortical inhibition and excitation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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