Oscillatory beta activity mediates neuroplastic effects of motor cortex stimulation in humans

Craig J. McAllister, Kim C. Rönnqvist, Ian M. Stanford, Gavin L. Woodhall, Paul L. Furlong, Stephen D. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) is a repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation protocol that can inhibithumanmotor cortex (M1) excitability and impair movement for ≤1 h. While offering valuable insights into brain function and potential therapeutic benefits, these neuroplastic effects are highly variable between individuals. The source of this variability, and the electrophysiological mechanisms underlying the inhibitory after-effects, are largely unknown. In this regard, oscillatory activity at beta frequency (15-35 Hz) is of particular interest as it is elevated in motor disorders such as Parkinson's disease and modulated during the generation of movements. Here, we used a source-level magnetoencephalography approach to investigate the hypothesis that the presence of neuroplastic effects following cTBS is associated with concurrent changes in oscillatory M1 beta activity. M1 cortices were localized with a synthetic aperture magnetometry beamforming analysis of visually cued index finger movements. Virtual electrode analysis was used to reconstruct the spontaneous and movement-related oscillatory activity in bilateral M1 cortices, before and from 10 to 45 min after cTBS. We demonstrate that 40 s of cTBS applied over left M1 reduced corticospinal excitability in the right index finger of 8/16 participants. In these responder participants only, cTBS increased the power of the spontaneous beta oscillations in stimulated M1 and delayed reaction times in the contralateral index finger. No further changes were observed in the latency or power of movement-related beta oscillations. These data provide insights into the electrophysiological mechanisms underlying cTBS-mediated impairment of motor function and demonstrate the association between spontaneous oscillatory beta activity in M1 and the inhibition of motor function. © 2013 the authors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7919-7927
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013

Bibliographical note

This article is freely available online through the J Neurosci Author Open Choice option. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Funding: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing; RCUK fellowship; Wellcome Trust; Dr. Hadwen Trust for Humane Research


  • motor cortex
  • beta-band oscillations
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • theta burst stimulation
  • cortical inhibition
  • human
  • motor control
  • corticospinal excitability


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