, Volume 124, Issue 4, pp 525-528

Effects of voluntary contraction on descending volleys evoked by transcranial electrical stimulation over the motor cortex hand area in conscious humans

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 The spinal volleys evoked by electric anodal and cathodal stimulation over the cerebral motor cortex hand area were recorded from a bipolar electrode inserted into the cervical epidural space of two conscious human subjects. We measured the size of volleys elicited by electric stimulation at active motor threshold and at 3% of maximum stimulator output above this value with subjects at rest and during maximum voluntary contraction of the contralateral first dorsal interosseous muscle. Surface EMG activity was recorded at the same time. Electrical anodal stimulation evoked a single negative wave that we termed D-wave in analogy with data in experimental animals. Cathodal stimulation evoked a single negative wave with a latency of 0.2 ms longer than the D-wave recruited by anodal stimulation. At both intensities tested, voluntary contraction did not modify the amplitude of the descending waves. We conclude that changes in cortical excitability induced by voluntary activity do not modify the corticospinal volley evoked by electric stimulation and that the D-waves evoked by both anodal and cathodal electric stimulation are probably initiated several nodes distant to the cell body.

Received: 9 September 1998 / Accepted: 21 October 1998