Similar Effect of Intermittent Theta Burst and Sham Stimulation on Corticospinal Excitability

Similar Effect of Intermittent Theta Burst and Sham Stimulation on Corticospinal Excitability

European Journal of Neuroscience. 48(4):1990-2000, 2018 08.

Perellon-Alfonso R; Kralik M; Pileckyte I; Princic M; Bon J; Matzhold C; Fischer B; Slahorova P; Pirtosek Z; Rothwell J; Kojovic M.

Despite accumulating evidence of inter- and intra-individual variability in response to theta burst stimulation, it is widely believed that in therapeutic applications, repeated sessions can have a “build-up” effect that increases the response over and above that seen in a single session. However, strong evidence for this is lacking. Therefore, we examined whether daily administration of intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) over the primary motor cortex induces cumulative changes in transcranial magnetic stimulation measures of cortical excitability, above the changes induced by sham stimulation. Over five consecutive days, 20 healthy participants received either active iTBS or sham stimulation. Each day, baseline measures of cortical excitability were assessed before and up to 30 min after the intervention. There was no significant difference in the rate of response between iTBS and sham stimulation on any of the 5 days. There was no iTBS specific cumulative increase of corticospinal excitability. The likelihood that an individual would remain a responder from day-to-day was low in both groups, implying high within-subject variability of both active and sham iTBS after-effects. In contrast, we found a high within-subject repeatability of resting and active motor threshold, and baseline motor-evoked potential amplitude. In summary, sham stimulation has similar effect to active iTBS on corticospinal excitability, even when applied repeatedly for 5 days. Our results might be relevant to research and clinical applications of theta burst stimulation protocols.