The cortical silent period

Alexander Wolters, Ulf Ziemann and Reiner Benecke

in Oxford Handbook of Transcranial Stimulation

Published in print January 2008 | ISBN: 9780198568926
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

The cortical silent period

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  • Psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience



The cortical silent period (cSP) refers to an interruption of voluntary muscle contraction by transcranial stimulation of the contralateral motor cortex. This article summarizes the physiology of cSP and gives guidelines as to how the cSP should be recorded and analysed, and refers to useful clinical applications. It describes the mechanisms at the spinal and supraspinal level can account for the cSP. It is currently thought that the cSP is mediated by gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors. cSP measurements are easy to obtain but require a standardized protocol to allow useful interpretation. Conditioning electrical stimulation of cutaneous nerves shortens the cSP. A conditioning transcranial magnetic stimulation pulse also affects cSP duration. The cSP duration is influenced by pathological conditions. cSP is an attractive probe to assess motor cortical inhibition in health and disease.

Keywords: cortical silent period; transcranial stimulation; contralateral motor cortex; electrical stimulation; cSP duration; pathological conditions

Article.  8044 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Neuropsychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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