Intracortical excitability in patients with relapsing-remitting and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.

Research paper by A A Conte, D D Lenzi, V V Frasca, F F Gilio, E E Giacomelli, M M Gabriele, C Marini CM Bettolo, E E Iacovelli, P P Pantano, C C Pozzilli, M M Inghilleri

Indexed on: 03 Mar '09Published on: 03 Mar '09Published in: Journal of Neurology


We designed this study to investigate possible correlations between variables measuring primary motor cortex excitability detected by single and paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and the severity of clinical manifestations in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Thirty patients with MS in remission, 16 with relapsing-remitting (RR), 14 with secondary progressive disease (SP) and 17 healthy subjects participated in the study. In each subject, the central motor conduction time (CMCT) was calculated, and single-pulse and paired-pulse TMS at 3 and 10 ms interstimulus intervals was delivered over the primary motor cortex of the dominant hemisphere to measure the amplitude of motor-evoked potentials (MEPs), motor threshold (MTh), intracortical inhibition (ICI) and facilitation (ICF). Correlations were determined between the patients' TMS findings and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) (lesion load) and clinical features (expanded disability status scale, EDSS score). EDSS scores were significantly higher in SPMS than in RRMS patients. The MTh was significantly higher, and the MEP was significantly smaller in SPMS patients than in RRMS patients and control subjects. All patients had longer CMCTs than healthy subjects. In all patients, paired-pulse TMS elicited an inhibited test MEP at the 3-ms ISI and a facilitated test MEP at the 10 ms ISI. Post hoc analysis showed that ICI was significantly lower in SPMS patients than in those with RRMS and healthy subjects. EDSS scores correlated significantly with TMS measures (MEP, ICI, CMCT and MTh), but not with MRI lesion load. It was found that intracortical excitability as measured with TMS differs according to the clinical course of MS; it remains normal in patients with low EDSS scores and is altered in patients with high EDSS scores.