This study investigated whether cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation (c-tDCS) of left primary motor cortex (M1) modulates excitability of ipsilateral propriospinal premotoneurons (PNs) in healthy humans. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the right motor cortex was used to obtain motor evoked potentials (MEPs) from the left biceps brachii (BB) while participants maintained contraction of the left BB. To examine presumed PN excitability, left BB MEPs were compared with those conditioned by median nerve stimulation (MNS) at the left elbow. Interstimulus intervals between TMS and MNS were set to produce summation at the C3-C4 level of the spinal cord. MNS facilitated BB MEPs elicited at TMS intensities near active motor threshold but inhibited BB MEPs at slightly higher intensities, indicative of putative PN modulation. c-tDCS suppressed the facilitatory and inhibitory effects of MNS. Sham tDCS did not alter either component. There was no effect of c-tDCS and sham tDCS on nonconditioned left BB MEPs or on the ipsilateral silent period of left BB. Right first dorsal interosseous MEPs were suppressed by c-tDCS. These results indicate that M1 c-tDCS can be used to modulate excitability of ipsilateral projections to presumed PNs controlling the proximal arm muscle BB. This technique may hold promise for promoting motor recovery of proximal upper limb function after stroke.
- Biceps brachii
- Motor evoked potential