Shortening of simple reaction time by peripheral electrical and submotor-threshold magnetic cortical stimulation
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Subthreshold transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the motor cortex can shorten the simple reaction time in contralateral arm muscles if the cortical shock is given at about the same time as the reaction stimulus. The present experiments were designed to investigate whether this phenomenon is due to a specific facilitatory effect on cortical circuitry. The simple visual reaction time was shortened by 20–50 ms when subthreshold TMS was given over the contralateral motor cortex. Reaction time was reduced to the same level whether the magnetic stimulus was given over the bilateral motor cortices or over other points on the scalp (Cz, Pz). Indeed, similar effects could be seen with conventional electrical stimulation over the neck, or even when the coil was discharged (giving a click sound) near the head. We conclude that much of the effect of TMS on simple reaction time is due to intersensory facilitation, although part of it may be ascribed to a specific effect on the excitability of motor cortex.
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