The role of pulse shape in motor cortex transcranial magnetic stimulation using full-sine stimuli

Igor Delvendahl, Norbert Gattinger, Thomas Berger, Bernhard Gleich, Hartwig R. Siebner, Volker Mall

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A full-sine (biphasic) pulse waveform is most commonly used for repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), but little is known about how variations in duration or amplitude of distinct pulse segments influence the effectiveness of a single TMS pulse to elicit a corticomotor response. Using a novel TMS device, we systematically varied the configuration of full-sine pulses to assess the impact of configuration changes on resting motor threshold (RMT) as measure of stimulation effectiveness with single-pulse TMS of the non-dominant motor hand area (M1). In young healthy volunteers, we (i) compared monophasic, half-sine, and full-sine pulses, (ii) applied two-segment pulses consisting of two identical half-sines, and (iii) manipulated amplitude, duration, and current direction of the first or second full-sine pulse half-segments. RMT was significantly higher using half-sine or monophasic pulses compared with full-sine. Pulses combining two half-sines of identical polarity and duration were also characterized by higher RMT than fullsine stimuli resulting. For full-sine stimuli, decreasing the amplitude of the half-segment inducing posterior-anterior oriented current in M1 resulted in considerably higher RMT, whereas varying the amplitude of the half-segment inducing anterior-posterior current had a smaller effect. These findings provide direct experimental evidence that the pulse segment inducing a posterior-anterior directed current in M1 contributes most to corticospinal pathway excitation. Preferential excitation of neuronal target cells in the posterior-anterior segment or targeting of different neuronal structures by the two half-segments can explain this result. Thus, our findings help understanding the mechanisms of neural stimulation by full-sine TMS.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere115247
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
StatePublished - 16 Dec 2014


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