The effect of sound and stimulus expectation on transcranial magnetic stimulation-elicited motor evoked potentials

ANTONIO CAPOZIO, Samit Chakrabarty, Sarah L. Astill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The amplitude of motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) elicited by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the motor cortex is influenced by multiple factors. TMS delivery is accompanied by an abrupt clicking noise which can induce a startle response. This study investigated how masking/attenuating the sound produced by the TMS system discharging influences MEP amplitudes. In addition, the effects of increasing the time between consecutive stimuli and of making participants aware of the time at which they would be stimulated were studied. MEPs were recorded from the Flexor Carpi Radialis (FCR) muscle at rest by stimulation at motor threshold (MT), 120% MT and 140% MT intensity. Participants (N = 23) received stimulation under normal (NORMAL) conditions and while: wearing sound-attenuating earmuffs (EAR); listening to white noise (NOISE); the interval between stimuli were prolonged (LONG); stimulation timing was presented on a screen (READY). The results showed that masking (p = 0.020) and attenuating (p = 0.004) the incoming sound significantly reduced the amplitude of MEPs recorded across the intensities of stimulation. Increasing the interval between pulses had no effect on the recorded traces if a jitter was introduced (p = 1), but making participants aware of stimulation timing decreased MEP amplitudes (p = 0.049). These findings suggest that the sound produced by TMS at discharging increases MEP amplitudes and that MEP amplitudes are influenced by stimulus expectation. These confounding factors need to be considered when using TMS to assess corticospinal excitability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)720-730
Number of pages11
JournalBrain Topography
Issue number34
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2021


  • TMS
  • Discharging noise
  • Stimulus expectation
  • Inter-pulse interval
  • Corticospinal excitability


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