Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 232, Issue 6, pp 1717–1728 | Cite as

Interaction of transcutaneous spinal stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation in human leg muscles

  • François D. Roy
  • Dillen Bosgra
  • Richard B. Stein
Research Article


Transcutaneous spinal stimulation is a noninvasive method that can activate dorsal and/or ventral roots depending on the location and intensity of stimulation. Reflex root-evoked potentials (REPs) were studied in muscles that traditionally evoke large (soleus) and small H-reflexes (tibialis anterior), as well as muscles where H-reflexes are difficult to study (hamstrings). This study characterizes the interaction of the REP and the motor-evoked potential (MEP). Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) delivered 11–25 ms before spinal stimulation resulted in more than linear summation of the two responses. Because of overlap, the modulation was quantified after subtracting the contribution of the conditioning MEP or REP. At rest, the mean-rectified soleus response was facilitated by up to ~250 μV (21-times the MEP or 161 % of the REP). The increases were more reliable during a voluntary contraction (up to ~300 μV, 517 % of the MEP or 181 % of the REP). At the 13-ms interval, the mean-rectified response in the pre-contracted hamstrings was increased by 227 % of the MEP or 300 % of the REP. In some subjects, TMS could also eliminate the post-activation depression produced using two spinal stimuli, confirming that the interaction can extend to presynaptic spinal neurons. The spatiotemporal facilitation in tibialis anterior was not significant. However, the large MEP was facilitated when the spinal stimulus preceded TMS by 100–150 ms, presumably because of rebound excitation. These strong interactions may be important for inducing motor plasticity and improved training procedures for recovery after neurological damage.


Spinal root stimulation Transcranial magnetic stimulation Dorsal roots Corticospinal tract Post-activation depression 



This research was supported in part by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. We are grateful to Dr. Monica Gorassini for the loan of some equipment and for insightful comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • François D. Roy
    • 1
    • 3
  • Dillen Bosgra
    • 2
  • Richard B. Stein
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of PhysiologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Centre for NeuroscienceUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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