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01.12.2014 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2014 Open Access

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 1/2014

Resting and active motor thresholds versus stimulus–response curves to determine transcranial magnetic stimulation intensity in quadriceps femoris

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation > Ausgabe 1/2014
John Temesi, Mathieu Gruet, Thomas Rupp, Samuel Verges, Guillaume Y Millet
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

JT, MG, TR, SV and GYM all contributed to the project conception, data collection and analysis and manuscript preparation. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a widely-used investigative technique in motor cortical evaluation. Recently, there has been a surge in TMS studies evaluating lower-limb fatigue. TMS intensity of 120-130% resting motor threshold (RMT) and 120% active motor threshold (AMT) and TMS intensity determined using stimulus–response curves during muscular contraction have been used in these studies. With the expansion of fatigue research in locomotion, the quadriceps femoris is increasingly of interest. It is important to select a stimulus intensity appropriate to evaluate the variables, including voluntary activation, being measured in this functionally important muscle group. This study assessed whether selected quadriceps TMS stimulus intensity determined by frequently employed methods is similar between methods and muscles.


Stimulus intensity in vastus lateralis, rectus femoris and vastus medialis muscles was determined by RMT, AMT (i.e. during brief voluntary contractions at 10% maximal voluntary force, MVC) and maximal motor-evoked potential (MEP) amplitude from stimulus–response curves during brief voluntary contractions at 10, 20 and 50% MVC at different stimulus intensities.


Stimulus intensity determined from a 10% MVC stimulus–response curve and at 120 and 130% RMT was higher than stimulus intensity at 120% AMT (lowest) and from a 50% MVC stimulus–response curve (p < 0.05). Stimulus intensity from a 20% MVC stimulus–response curve was similar to 120% RMT and 50% MVC stimulus–response curve. Mean stimulus intensity for stimulus–response curves at 10, 20 and 50% MVC corresponded to approximately 135, 115 and 100% RMT and 180, 155 and 130% AMT, respectively. Selected stimulus intensity was similar between muscles for all methods (p > 0.05).


Similar optimal stimulus intensity and maximal MEP amplitudes at 20 and 50% MVC and the minimal risk of residual fatigue at 20% MVC suggest that a 20% MVC stimulus–response curve is appropriate for determining TMS stimulus intensity in the quadriceps femoris. The higher selected stimulus intensities at 120-130% RMT have the potential to cause increased coactivation and discomfort and the lower stimulus intensity at 120% AMT may underestimate evoked responses. One muscle may also act as a surrogate in determining optimal quadriceps femoris stimulation intensity.

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