Pre–stimulus alpha oscillations and inter-subject variability of motor evoked potentials in single- and paired-pulse TMS paradigms
Inter- and intra-subject variability of the motor evoked potentials (MEPs) to TMS is a well-known phenomenon. Although a possible link between this variability and ongoing brain oscillations was demonstrated, the results of the studies are not consistent with each other. Exploring this topic further is important since the modulation of MEPs provides unique possibility to relate oscillatory cortical phenomena to the state of the motor cortex probed with TMS. Given that alpha oscillations were shown to reflect cortical excitability, we hypothesized that their power and variability might explain the modulation of subject-specific MEPs to single- and paired-pulse TMS (spTMS, ppTMS, respectively). Neuronal activity was recorded with multichannel EEG. We used spTMS and two ppTMS conditions: intracortical facilitation (ICF) and short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI). Spearman correlations were calculated within and across subjects between MEPs and the pre-stimulus power of alpha oscillations in low (8–10 Hz) and high (10–12 Hz) frequency bands. Coefficient of quartile variation was used to measure variability. Across-subject analysis revealed no difference in the pre-stimulus alpha power among the TMS conditions. However, the variability of high-alpha power in spTMS condition was larger than in the SICI condition. In ICF condition pre-stimulus high-alpha power variability correlated positively with MEP amplitude variability. No correlation has been observed between the pre-stimulus alpha power and MEP responses in any of the conditions. Our results for the first time show that the variability of the alpha oscillations can be more predictive of TMS effects than the commonly used power of oscillations and we provide further support for the dissociation of high and low-alpha bands in predicting responses produced by the stimulation of the motor cortex.