Oscillatory beta activity mediates neuroplastic effects of motor cortex stimulation in humans

Craig J McAllister, Kim C Rönnqvist, Ian M Stanford, Gavin L Woodhall, Paul L Furlong, Stephen D Hall

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35 Citations (Scopus)
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Continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) is a repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation protocol that can inhibit human motor cortex (M1) excitability and impair movement for ≤ 1 h. While offering valuable insights into brain function and potential therapeutic benefits, these neuroplastic effects are highly variable between individuals. The source of this variability, and the electrophysiological mechanisms underlying the inhibitory after-effects, are largely unknown. In this regard, oscillatory activity at beta frequency (15-35 Hz) is of particular interest as it is elevated in motor disorders such as Parkinson's disease and modulated during the generation of movements. Here, we used a source-level magnetoencephalography approach to investigate the hypothesis that the presence of neuroplastic effects following cTBS is associated with concurrent changes in oscillatory M1 beta activity. M1 cortices were localized with a synthetic aperture magnetometry beamforming analysis of visually cued index finger movements. Virtual electrode analysis was used to reconstruct the spontaneous and movement-related oscillatory activity in bilateral M1 cortices, before and from 10 to 45 min after cTBS. We demonstrate that 40 s of cTBS applied over left M1 reduced corticospinal excitability in the right index finger of 8/16 participants. In these responder participants only, cTBS increased the power of the spontaneous beta oscillations in stimulated M1 and delayed reaction times in the contralateral index finger. No further changes were observed in the latency or power of movement-related beta oscillations. These data provide insights into the electrophysiological mechanisms underlying cTBS-mediated impairment of motor function and demonstrate the association between spontaneous oscillatory beta activity in M1 and the inhibition of motor function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7919-27
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013


  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Beta Rhythm
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor
  • Female
  • Fingers
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex
  • Movement
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Pyramidal Tracts
  • Reaction Time
  • Time Factors
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Young Adult


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