Magnetic stimulation of the human motor cortex increases skin sympathetic nerve activity (SSNA)

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Magnetic coil (MC) stimulation (Cadwell MES 10) over the cranium induces a non-painful electric pulse in the underlying cerebral cortex with excitation of neurons; e.g. stimulation of the motor cortex is known to elicit muscle twitch responses. In this study of 10 subjects, we tested if such stimulation could also elicit SSNA (n=8) and muscle SNA (n=5) (peroneal nerve). Motor cortical stimulation by individual MC pulses predictably elicited bursts of SSNA but not MSNA. The MC induced SSNA responses did not easily extinguish and had predictable latencies (820±20 msec). The SSNA responses were similar following stimulation of dominant and nondominant sides and when arm or leg responses were elicited. Stimulation posterior to the motor cortex less consistently elicited SSNA; however, in all but one subject, stimulation of frontal premotor areas elicited SSNA responses similar to those seen with motor cortex stimulation. By contrast, direct forearm muscle stimulation by the MC (that elicited similar EMG's) evoked SSNA responses that more readily extinguished. Electrical stimulation of finger afferents sufficient to cause tingling, or the loud sound alone of the MC pulse also led to earlier extinguished SSNA. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that motor cortex stimulation can cause parallel activation of a motor neurons and SSNA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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