Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the primary motor cortex (M1) can excite both cortico-cortical and cortico-spinal axons resulting in TMS-evoked potentials (TEPs) and motor-evoked potentials (MEPs), respectively. Despite this remarkable difference with other cortical areas, the influence of motor output and its amplitude on TEPs is largely unknown. Here we studied TEPs resulting from M1 stimulation and assessed whether their waveform and spectral features depend on the MEP amplitude. To this aim, we performed two separate experiments. In experiment 1, single-pulse TMS was applied at the same supra-threshold intensity on primary motor, prefrontal, premotor and parietal cortices and the corresponding TEPs were compared by means of local mean field power and time-frequency spectral analysis. In experiment 2 we stimulated M1 at resting motor threshold in order to elicit MEPs characterized by a wide range of amplitudes. TEPs computed from high-MEP and low-MEP trials were then compared using the same methods applied in experiment 1. In line with previous studies, TMS of M1 produced larger TEPs compared to other cortical stimulations. Notably, we found that only TEPs produced by M1 stimulation were accompanied by a late event-related desynchronization (ERD-peaking at ~300 ms after TMS), whose magnitude was strongly dependent on the amplitude of MEPs. Overall, these results suggest that M1 produces peculiar responses to TMS possibly reflecting specific anatomo-functional properties, such as the re-entry of proprioceptive feedback associated with target muscle activation.
Background: Previous studies have separately reported impaired functional, structural, and effective connectivity in patients with disorders of consciousness (DOC). The perturbational complexity index (PCI) is a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) derived marker of effective connectivity. The global fractional anisotropy (FA) is a marker of structural integrity. Little is known about how these parameters are related to each other.
Objective: We aimed at testing the relationship between structural integrity and effective connectivity.
Methods: We assessed 23 patients with severe brain injury more than 4 weeks post-onset, leading to DOC or locked-in syndrome, and 14 healthy subjects. We calculated PCI using repeated single pulse TMS coupled with high-density electroencephalography, and used it as a surrogate of effective connectivity. Structural integrity was measured using the global FA, derived from diffusion weighted imaging. We used linear regression modelling to test our hypothesis, and computed the correlation between PCI and FA in different groups.
Global FA could predict 74% of PCI variance in the whole sample and 56% in the patients' group. No other predictors (age, gender, time since onset, behavioural score) improved the models. FA and PCI were correlated in the whole population (r = 0.86, p < 0.0001), the patients, and the healthy subjects subgroups.
Conclusion: We here demonstrated that effective connectivity correlates with structural integrity in brain-injured patients. Increased structural damage level decreases effective connectivity, which could prevent the emergence of consciousness.
Several neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders have recently been characterized as dysfunctions arising from a 'final common pathway' of imbalanced excitation to inhibition within cortical networks. How the regulation of a cortical E/I ratio is affected by sleep and the circadian rhythm however, remains to be established. Here we addressed this issue through the analyses of TMS-evoked responses recorded over a 29 h sleep deprivation protocol conducted in young and healthy volunteers. Spectral analyses of TMS-evoked responses in frontal cortex revealed non-linear changes in gamma band evoked oscillations, compatible with an influence of circadian timing on inhibitory interneuron activity. In silico inferences of cell-to-cell excitatory and inhibitory connectivity and GABA/Glutamate receptor time constant based on neural mass modeling within the Dynamic causal modeling framework, further suggested excitation/inhibition balance was under a strong circadian influence. These results indicate that circadian changes in EEG spectral properties, in measure of excitatory/inhibitory connectivity and in GABA/glutamate receptor function could support the maintenance of cognitive performance during a normal waking day, but also during overnight wakefulness. More generally, these findings demonstrate a slow daily regulation of cortical excitation/inhibition balance, which depends on circadian-timing and prior sleep-wake history.
Prolonged wakefulness alters cortical excitability, which is essential for proper brain function and cognition. However, besides prior wakefulness, brain function and cognition are also affected by circadian rhythmicity. Whether the regulation of cognition involves a circadian impact on cortical excitability is unknown. Here, we assessed cortical excitability from scalp electroencephalography (EEG) responses to transcranial magnetic stimulation in 22 participants during 29 h of wakefulness under constant conditions. Data reveal robust circadian dynamics of cortical excitability that are strongest in those individuals with highest endocrine markers of circadian amplitude. In addition, the time course of cortical excitability correlates with changes in EEG synchronization and cognitive performance. These results demonstrate that the crucial factor for cortical excitability, and basic brain function in general, is the balance between circadian rhythmicity and sleep need, rather than sleep homoeostasis alone. These findings have implications for clinical applications such as non-invasive brain stimulation in neurorehabilitation.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation combined with electroencephalography (TMS/EEG) represents a valuable tool to probe cortical excitability and connectivity. Although several procedures have been devised to abolish TMS-related artifacts, direct evidence that it is possible to record TMS-evoked potentials (TEPs) that purely reflect cortical responses to TMS are still lacking.
To demonstrate that when TMS is delivered on a human head with intact nerves, scalp and ocular muscles, TEPs are present only if a functional portion of cortex is targeted and is absent otherwise.
We performed extensive navigated TMS/EEG mappings in three vegetative state patients and in eight healthy controls. Patients were selected based on the extension of their cortical lesions as revealed by structural/functional imaging: the cerebral cortex was globally damaged in Patient 1 due to cerebral anoxia, Patient 2 showed a traumatic damage affecting one cerebral hemisphere, while Patient 3 was characterized by one left sided and one right-sided focal ischemic lesion.
In Patient 1, TMS performed at any targeted cortical site did not elicit statistically significant TEPs. In Patient 2, TEPs were absent when the damaged hemisphere was targeted, while were present over the healthy side. In Patient 3, significant TEPs were absent when cortical lesions were targeted and present otherwise. Significant TEPs were always present in healthy controls.
These findings suggest that, provided that appropriate experimental procedures are employed, TEPs are genuine cortical responses detectable only when preserved cortical tissue is stimulated. Hence, a dependable assessment of cortical excitability and connectivity in brain-injured patients requires the use of neuronavigated TMS.
We normally assess another individual’s level of consciousness based on her or his ability to interact with the surrounding environment and communicate. Usually, if we observe purposeful behavior, appropriate responses to sensory inputs, and, above all, appropriate answers to questions, we can be reasonably sure that the person is conscious. However, we know that consciousness can be entirely within the brain, even in the absence of any interaction with the external world; this happens almost every night, while we dream. Yet, to this day, we lack an objective, dependable measure of the level of consciousness that is independent of processing sensory inputs and producing appropriate motor outputs. Theoretically, consciousness is thought to require the joint presence of functional integration and functional differentiation, otherwise defined as brain complexity. Here we review a series of recent studies in which Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation combined with electroencephalography (TMS/EEG) has been employed to quantify brain complexity in wakefulness and during physiological (sleep), pharmacological (anesthesia) and pathological (brain injury) loss of consciousness. These studies invariably show that the complexity of the cortical response to TMS collapses when consciousness is lost during deep sleep, anesthesia and vegetative state following severe brain injury, while it recovers when consciousness resurges in wakefulness, during dreaming, in the minimally conscious state or locked-in syndrome. The present paper will also focus on how this approach may contribute to unveiling the pathophysiology of disorders of consciousness affecting brain-injured patients. Finally, we will underline some crucial methodological aspects concerning TMS/EEG measurements of brain complexity.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) has significant short-term antidepressant effects on drug-resistant patients with severe major depression. Animal studies have demonstrated that electroconvulsive seizures produce potentiation-like synaptic remodeling in both sub-cortical and frontal cortical circuits. However, the electrophysiological effects of ECT in the human brain are not known. In this work, we evaluated whether ECT induces a measurable change in the excitability of frontal cortical circuits in humans. Electroencephalographic (EEG) potentials evoked by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) were collected before and after a course of ECT in eight patients with severe major depression. Cortical excitability was measured from the early and local EEG response to TMS. Clinical assessment confirmed the beneficial effects of ECT on depressive symptoms at the group level. TMS/EEG measurements revealed a clear-cut increase of frontal cortical excitability after ECT as compared to baseline, that was significant in each and every patient. The present findings corroborate in humans the idea that ECT may produce synaptic potentiation, as previously observed in animal studies. Moreover, results suggest that TMS/EEG may be employed in depressed patients to monitor longitudinally the electrophysiological effects of different therapeutic neuromodulators, e.g. ECT, repetitive TMS, and sleep deprivation. To the extent that depression involves an alteration of frontal cortical excitability, these measurements may be used to guide and evaluate treatment progression over time at the single-patient level.
Patients surviving severe brain injury may regain consciousness without recovering their ability to understand, move and communicate. Recently, electrophysiological and neuroimaging approaches, employing simple sensory stimulations or verbal commands, have proven useful in detecting higher order processing and, in some cases, in establishing some degree of communication in brain-injured subjects with severe impairment of motor function. To complement these approaches, it would be useful to develop methods to detect recovery of consciousness in ways that do not depend on the integrity of sensory pathways or on the subject's ability to comprehend or carry out instructions. As suggested by theoretical and experimental work, a key requirement for consciousness is that multiple, specialized cortical areas can engage in rapid causal interactions (effective connectivity). Here, we employ transcranial magnetic stimulation together with high-density electroencephalography to evaluate effective connectivity at the bedside of severely brain injured, non-communicating subjects. In patients in a vegetative state, who were open-eyed, behaviourally awake but unresponsive, transcranial magnetic stimulation triggered a simple, local response indicating a breakdown of effective connectivity, similar to the one previously observed in unconscious sleeping or anaesthetized subjects. In contrast, in minimally conscious patients, who showed fluctuating signs of non-reflexive behaviour, transcranial magnetic stimulation invariably triggered complex activations that sequentially involved distant cortical areas ipsi- and contralateral to the site of stimulation, similar to activations we recorded in locked-in, conscious patients. Longitudinal measurements performed in patients who gradually recovered consciousness revealed that this clear-cut change in effective connectivity could occur at an early stage, before reliable communication was established with the subject and before the spontaneous electroencephalogram showed significant modifications. Measurements of effective connectivity by means of transcranial magnetic stimulation combined with electroencephalography can be performed at the bedside while by-passing subcortical afferent and efferent pathways, and without requiring active participation of subjects or language comprehension; hence, they offer an effective way to detect and track recovery of consciousness in brain-injured patients who are unable to exchange information with the external environment.
High-density electroencephalography (hd-EEG) combined with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) provides a direct and non-invasive measure of cortical excitability and connectivity in humans and may be employed to track over time pathological alterations, plastic changes and therapy-induced modifications in cortical circuits. However, the diagnostic/monitoring applications of this technique would be limited to the extent that TMS-evoked potentials are either stereotypical (non-sensitive) or random (non-repeatable) responses. Here, we used controlled changes in the stimulation parameters (site, intensity, and angle of stimulation) and repeated longitudinal measurements (same day and one week apart) to evaluate the sensitivity and repeatability of TMS/hd-EEG potentials.
In 10 volunteers, we performed 92 single-subject comparisons to evaluate the similarities/differences between pairs of TMS-evoked potentials recorded in the same/different stimulation conditions. For each pairwise comparison, we used non-parametric statistics to calculate a Divergence Index (DI), i.e., the percentage of samples that differed significantly, considering all scalp locations and the entire post-stimulus period. A receiver operating characteristic analysis showed that it was possible to find an optimal DI threshold of 1.67%, yielding 96.7% overall accuracy of TMS/hd-EEG in detecting whether a change in the perturbation parameters occurred or not.
These results demonstrate that the EEG responses to TMS essentially reflect deterministic properties of the stimulated neuronal circuits as opposed to stereotypical responses or uncontrolled variability. To the extent that TMS-evoked potentials are sensitive to changes and repeatable over time, they may be employed to detect longitudinal changes in the state of cortical circuits.
Objective: Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) combined with high-density electroencephalography (EEG) can be used to directly examine the properties of thalamocortical circuits in the brain without engaging an individual in cognitive or motor tasks. The authors investigated EEG responses in schizophrenia patients and healthy comparison subjects following the application of TMS to the premotor cortex. Method: Sixteen schizophrenia patients and 14 healthy comparison subjects were recruited to participate in the study. Participants underwent three to five TMS/high-density EEG sessions at various TMS doses. The following three aspects of TMS-evoked responses were analyzed: amplitude, synchronization, and source localization. Results: Relative to healthy comparison subjects, schizophrenia patients had a marked decrease in evoked gamma oscillations that occurred within the first 100 msec after TMS, particularly in a cluster of electrodes located in a fronto-central region. These oscillations were significantly reduced in amplitude (calculated using global-mean field power and event-related spectral perturbation analysis) and synchronization (measured using intertrial coherence). Furthermore, source modeling analysis revealed that the TMS-evoked brain activation underlying these gamma oscillations in patients with schizophrenia did not propagate (as it did in healthy comparison subjects) and was mostly confined to the stimulated brain region.
Conclusions: Schizophrenia patients showed a decrease in EEG-evoked responses in the gamma band when TMS was applied to directly stimulate the frontal cortex while these responses were recorded. Since EEG responses to direct cortical stimulation are not affected by an individual’s motivation, attention, or cognitive capacity and are not relayed through peripheral afferent pathways, these findings suggest that there might be an intrinsic dysfunction in frontal thalamocortical circuits in individuals with schizophrenia.