Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 154, Issue 1, pp 1–10

Interactions between inhibitory and excitatory circuits in the human motor cortex


DOI: 10.1007/s00221-003-1684-1

Cite this article as:
Chen, R. Exp Brain Res (2004) 154: 1. doi:10.1007/s00221-003-1684-1


Cortical activity depends on the balance between excitatory and inhibitory influences. Several different excitatory and inhibitory systems in the human motor cortex can be tested by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). While considerable information is known about these different inhibitory and excitatory phenomena individually, how they are related to each other and how they interact is not well understood. Several recent studies have investigated the interactions between some of these circuits by applying them together. It has been found that short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) and long-interval intracortical inhibition (LICI) are mediated by different circuits. LICI appears to inhibit SICI, which may occur through presynaptic GABAB receptors. Interhemispheric inhibition elicited by stimulation of the contralateral motor cortex also inhibits SICI and may share inhibitory mechanisms with LICI. Long-interval afferent inhibition induced by median nerve stimulation inhibits LICI but does not interact with SICI. Based on these results, a model of interactions between different inhibitory systems that can be tested and refined in the future is proposed. Further studies of the interaction between different cortical inhibitory and excitatory circuits should improve our understanding of the functional organization of the motor cortex and allow better interpretation of abnormal findings in disease states. It may also be developed into a new way of studying the pathophysiology of diseases and the effects of intervention.


Motor cortex Inhibition Facilitation Transcranial magnetic stimulation 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Neurology and Krembil Neuroscience Centre, Toronto Western Research Institute, University Health NetworkUniversity of TorontoCanada
  2. 2.Toronto Western Hospital, 5W-445TorontoCanada