Long-lasting modulation of human motor cortex following prolonged transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) of forearm muscles: evidence of reciprocal inhibition and facilitation

  • Tinazzi M
  • Zarattini S
  • Valeriani M
 et al. 
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Several lines of evidence indicate that motor cortex excitability can be modulated by manipulation of afferent inputs, like peripheral electrical stimulation. Most studies in humans mainly dealt with the effects of prolonged low-frequency peripheral nerve stimulation on motor cortical excitability, despite its being known from animal studies that high-frequency stimulation can also result in changes of the cortical excitability. To investigate the possible effects of high-frequency peripheral stimulation on motor cortical excitability we recorded motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the left motor cortex from the right flexor carpi radialis (FCR), extensor carpi radialis (ECR), and first dorsal interosseous (FDI) in normal subjects, before and after transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) of 30 min duration applied over the FCR. The amplitude of MEPs from the FRC was significantly reduced from 10 to 35 min after TENS while the amplitude of MEPs from ECR was increased. No effects were observed in the FDI muscle. Indices of peripheral nerve (M-wave) and spinal cord excitability (H waves) did not change throughout the experiment. Electrical stimulation of the lateral antebrachial cutaneous nerve has no significant effect on motor cortex excitability. These findings suggest that TENS of forearm muscles can induce transient reciprocal inhibitory and facilitatory changes in corticomotoneuronal excitability of forearm flexor and extensor muscles lasting several minutes. These changes probably may occur at cortical site and seem to be mainly dependent on stimulation of muscle afferents. These findings might eventually lead to practical applications in rehabilitation, especially in those syndromes in which the excitatory and inhibitory balance between agonist and antagonist is severely impaired, such as spasticity and dystonia

Author-supplied keywords

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Evoked Potentials,Motor
  • Female
  • Forearm
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex
  • Muscle,Skeletal
  • Muscles
  • Neural Inhibition
  • Spinal Cord
  • Time
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation
  • methods
  • physiology
  • rehabilitation

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  • PMID: 15551083


  • M Tinazzi

  • S Zarattini

  • M Valeriani

  • S Romito

  • S Farina

  • G Moretto

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