Liepert J, Mingers D, Heesen C, Bäumer T, Weiller C.

We investigated electrophysiological correlates of fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was used to explore motor excitability in three groups of subjects: MS patients with fatigue (MS-F), MS patients without fatigue (MS-NF) and healthy control subjects. All participants had to perform a fatiguing hand-grip exercise. TMS was performed prior to and after the exercise. Prior to the motor task, MS-F patients had less inhibition in the primary motor cortex compared to both other groups. Postexercise, intracortical inhibition was still reduced in the MS-F patients compared to the MS-NF patients. In MS-F patients the postexercise time interval for normalization of the motor threshold was correlated with the fatigue severity. We conclude that MS patients with fatigue have an impairment of inhibitory circuits in their primary motor cortex. The results also indicate that fatigue severity is associated with an exercise-induced reduction of membrane excitability.

Mult. Scler. 2005;11:316-21.

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