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Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Epilepsy

Macdonell, Richard A. L.*†; Curatolo, Josie M.*; Berkovic, Samuel F.*†

Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology: August 2002 - Volume 19 - Issue 4 - p 294-306
Review Articles

Summary  Transcranial magnetic stimulation has been used to study generalized and focal epilepsies for more than a decade. The technique appears safe and has yielded important information about the mechanisms underlying epilepsy. Transcranial magnetic stimulation findings differ depending on the epilepsy syndrome, lending support to the concept that there are distinct pathophysiologies underlying each condition. In most studies of generalized epilepsies, transcranial magnetic stimulation has indicated a state of relative hyperexcitability of excitatory cortical interneurons and possibly inhibitory interneurons as well, which can be reversed through the actions of anticonvulsant medications. Transcranial magnetic stimulation studies in patients with a seizure focus in the motor cortex indicate increased cortical excitability and reduced inhibition, but in patients with seizure foci located elsewhere the findings are similar to those in generalized epilepsies. Transcranial magnetic stimulation has also been used to study the mode of action of anticonvulsants and may prove to be a useful means of testing the potential for new drugs to act as anticonvulsants. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation may prove to have a therapeutic role by producing long-lasting cortical inhibition after a train of impulses.

*Department of Neurology, Austin & Repatriation Medical Centre, Heidelberg, and †Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Address correspondence and reprint requests to A/Prof. Richard Macdonell, Department of Neurology, Austin & Repatriation Medical Centre, Studley Road, Heidelberg, Victoria 3084, Australia; e-mail:

Copyright © 2002 American Clinical Neurophysiology Society