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Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the motor cortex was used to produce compound motor evoked potentials (cMEPs) in the first dorsal interosseus (FDI) muscle. The size of cMEPs was measured as an index of corticospinal excitability before and after initiation of a simple reaction task (SRT). The SRT, consisting of an abduction of the right index finger against a vertical support in response to a 1 kHz cueing tone, was performed in 6 healthy male subjects. cMEPs were facilitated when timed to occur just before the fastest simple reaction time (fSRT). When the cMEP was placed 15.5 ± 1.5 ms before the fSRT, its amplitude increased to 176 ± 36% of the control response seen in the relaxed state (no SRTs). Facilitation of the cMEP increased to 382 ± 43% of the control when it was placed 11.9 ± 1.5 ms after the fSRT. The facilitation of cMEP responses prior to the SRT is discussed with particular reference to the premovement potential that may be recorded over the cortex prior to a voluntary movement.
The authors are with the Division of Neuroscience & Psychological Medicine, Imperial College School of Medicine, Charing Cross Hospital, Fulham Palace Road, London W6 8RF, UK.