Detection of motor-evoked potentials below the noise floor: rethinking the motor stimulation threshold.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Objective. Motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) are among the most prominent responses to brain stimulation, such as supra-threshold transcranial magnetic stimulation and electrical stimulation. Understanding of the neurophysiology and the determination of the lowest stimulation strength that evokes responses requires the detection of even smaller responses, e.g. from single motor units. However, available detection and quantization methods suffer from a large noise floor. This paper develops a detection method that extracts MEPs hidden below the noise floor. With this method, we aim to estimate excitatory activations of the corticospinal pathways well below the conventional detection level.Approach. The presented MEP detection method presents a self-learning matched-filter approach for improved robustness against noise. The filter is adaptively generated per subject through iterative learning. For responses that are reliably detected by conventional detection, the new approach is fully compatible with established peak-to-peak readings and provides the same results but extends the dynamic range below the conventional noise floor.Main results. In contrast to the conventional peak-to-peak measure, the proposed method increases the signal-to-noise ratio by more than a factor of 5. The first detectable responses appear to be substantially lower than the conventional threshold definition of 50µV median peak-to-peak amplitude.Significance. The proposed method shows that stimuli well below the conventional 50µV threshold definition can consistently and repeatably evoke muscular responses and thus activate excitable neuron populations in the brain. As a consequence, the input-output (IO) curve is extended at the lower end, and the noise cut-off is shifted. Importantly, the IO curve extends so far that the 50µV point turns out to be closer to the center of the logarithmic sigmoid curve rather than close to the first detectable responses. The underlying method is applicable to a wide range of evoked potentials and other biosignals, such as in electroencephalography.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Li, Z; Peterchev, AV; Rothwell, JC; Goetz, SM

Published Date

  • October 21, 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 19 / 5

PubMed ID

  • 35785762

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1741-2552

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1088/1741-2552/ac7dfc


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England