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Exp Brain Res. 2008 May;187(1):17-23. doi: 10.1007/s00221-008-1274-3. Epub 2008 Jan 30.

Corticospinal excitability in human subjects during nonrapid eye movement sleep: single and paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation study.

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Section of Rehabilitative Neurology, Department of Neurological and Visual Sciences, Hospital G. B. Rossi, University of Verona, Verona, Italy,


The mechanisms responsible for changes in brain function during normal sleep are poorly understood. In this study, we aimed to investigate the effects of sleep on human corticospinal excitability by estimating resting motor threshold (RMT), and latency and amplitude of motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) after delivering transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in ten healthy subjects. We also aimed to study short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) during sleep with paired-pulse TMS (pp-TMS). Ten healthy volunteers were studied. They were monitored immediately before, during and after a 3-h sleep (from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., immediately after the mid-day meal). EEG was continuously recorded during sleep and the various sleep stages were identified off line. Every 10 min, subjects received ten single stimuli (to estimate RMT, MEP latency and amplitude) and six paired stimuli (to estimate SICI). MEP amplitude decreased and latency and RMT increased during the various sleep stages and returned to baseline values on awakening. Post hoc comparisons showed a significant difference in pp-TMS MEP amplitudes between the sleep and all the other conditions. The changes in TMS evoked variables during the different sleep stages indicate that during nonrapid eye movement sleep, cortical pyramidal neuron excitability (as measured by RMT, MEP latency and amplitude) progressively diminishes and the efficiency of the intracortical GABA-ergic network (as assessed by three pp-TMS) increases. On awakening, these sleep-induced changes in corticospinal excitability return rapidly to values observed during wakefulness.

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