The motor cortex can be excited in adults using electromagnetic stimulation, and the latency to the evoked muscle action potential allows an assessment of the integrity of corticospinal tracts. We applied this technique in children to describe the maturation of corticospinal tracts. The latency from cortical stimulation to the onset of the evoked muscle action potentials and the subject's height were recorded. The subject's height was divided by the latency to the onset of the evoked muscle action potential to provide an index of the conduction velocity within descending motor pathways (VI). It is possible to evoke muscle action potentials after electromagnetic stimulation of the motor cortex in children including preterm babies and there is a stepwise increase in the sensitivity to stimulation between 8 and 11 years of age. In addition there is a progressive increase in VI with age; adult values are attained at about 11 years. The successful application of this technique in children suggests that electromagnetic stimulation of the motor cortex has the potential to allow detection of abnormality in motor pathways in newborn babies and young children.
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