Studying the cortical state with transcranial magnetic stimulation

Hanna Mäki

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


    Cortical excitability and connectivity describe the state of the cerebral cortex. They reflect the ability of neurons to respond to input and the way information flows in the neuronal networks. These properties can be assessed with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which enables direct and noninvasive modulation of cortical activity. Electrophysiological or hemodynamic recordings of TMS-evoked activity or behavioral measures of the stimulation effect characterize the state of the cortex during and as a result of the stimulation. In the research reported in this Thesis, the ability of TMS to inform us about the cortical state is studied from different points of view. First, we examine the relationships between different measures of cortical excitability to better understand the physiology behind them; we show how cortical background activity is related to motor cortical excitability and how the evoked responses reflect the excitability. Second, this study addresses the questions whether the TMS-evoked responses include stimulation-related artifacts, how these artifacts are generated, and how they can be avoided or removed. Specifically, we present a method to remove the artifacts from TMS-evoked electroencephalographic (EEG) signals arising as a result of cranial muscle stimulation. The use of TMS-EEG has been limited to relatively medial sites because of these artifacts, but the new method enables studying the cortical state even when stimulating areas near the cranial muscles, especially lateral sites. Finally, this work provides new information about brain function. The mechanisms how the brain processes visually guided timed motor actions are elucidated. Moreover, we show that cortical excitability as measured with TMS-evoked EEG increases during the course of wakefulness and decreases during sleep, which contributes to our understanding of what happens in the brain during wakefulness that makes us feel tired and why the brain needs sleep. The study also shows the sensitivity of the TMS-EEG measurement to changes in the state of the cortex. Accordingly, we demonstrate the power of TMS in studying the cortical state.
    Translated title of the contributionStudying the cortical state with transcranial magnetic stimulation
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor's degree
    Awarding Institution
    • Aalto University
    • Nieminen, Risto, Supervising Professor
    • Ilmoniemi, Risto, Thesis Advisor
    Print ISBNs978-952-60-4155-1
    Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-4156-8
    Publication statusPublished - 2011
    MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


    • transcranial magnetic stimulation
    • electroencephalography
    • electromyography
    • near-infrared spectroscopy


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