The transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)-elicited motor-evoked potential (MEP) is a valuable measure for clinical evaluations of various neurological disorders and is used to determine resting motor threshold for repetitive TMS dosing. Although MEP amplitude is primarily associated with motor system function, there is evidence that nonmotor factors may also influence amplitude. This experiment tested the hypotheses that manipulation of 2 factors (visual attention, cognitive regulation) in human participants would significantly affect MEP amplitude.
Blocks of MEPs were recorded from the dominant right hand as participants (N=20) were instructed to shift their visual attention (toward and away from the hand) and cognitively regulate the MEPs (rest, attenuate MEP amplitude, potentiate MEP amplitude) using their thoughts (6 blocks, 20 pulses/block, randomized, 110% resting motor threshold).
MEP amplitude was significantly affected by the direction of visual attention; looking away from the hand led to higher amplitudes (P=0.003). The relationship with cognitive regulation was nonsignificant.
The significant effect of visual attention on MEP suggests that this should be a standardized parameter in clinical and research studies. These data underscore the importance of rigorous reporting of methods and use of standardized practices for MEP acquisition and TMS dosing to ensure consistent clinical measurement and treatment.