Focal stimulation of the posterior parietal cortex increases the excitability of the ipsilateral motor cortex.
Koch G., Fernandez Del Olmo M., Cheeran B., Ruge D., Schippling S., Caltagirone C., Rothwell JC.
Paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been applied as a probe to test functional connectivity within distinct cortical areas of the human motor system. Here, we tested the interaction between the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) and ipsilateral motor cortex (M1). A conditioning TMS pulse over the right PPC potentiates motor evoked-potentials evoked by a test TMS pulse over the ipsilateral motor cortex, with a time course characterized by two phases: an early peak at 4 ms interstimulus interval (ISI) and a late peak at 15 ms ISI. Activation of this facilitatory pathway depends on the intensity of stimulation, because the effects are induced with a conditioning stimulus of 90% resting motor threshold but not at lower or higher intensities. Similar results were obtained testing the ipsilateral interaction in the left hemisphere with a slightly different time course. In control experiments, we found that activation of this facilitatory pathway depends on the direction of induced current in the brain and is specific for stimulation of the caudal part of the inferior parietal sulcus (cIPS) site, because it is not observed for stimulation of adjacent scalp sites. Finally, we found that by using poststimulus time histogram analysis of single motor unit firing, the PPC conditioning increases the excitability of ipsilateral M1, enhancing the relative amount of late I wave input recruited by the test stimulus over M1, suggesting that such interaction is mediated by specific interneurons in the motor cortex. The described facilitatory connections between cIPS and M1 may be important in a variety of motor tasks and neuropsychiatric disorders.