Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation as a Potential Biomarker in Multiple Sclerosis: A Systematic Review with Recommendations for Future Research.
Snow Nicholas J,Wadden Katie P,Chaves Arthur R,Ploughman Michelle
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system. Disease progression is variable and unpredictable, warranting the development of biomarkers of disease status. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive method used to study the human motor system, which has shown potential in MS research. However, few reviews have summarized the use of TMS combined with clinical measures of MS and no work has comprehensively assessed study quality. This review explored the viability of TMS as a biomarker in studies of MS examining disease severity, cognitive impairment, motor impairment, or fatigue. Methodological quality and risk of bias were evaluated in studies meeting selection criteria. After screening 1603 records, 30 were included for review. All studies showed high risk of bias, attributed largely to issues surrounding sample size justification, experimenter blinding, and failure to account for key potential confounding variables. Central motor conduction time and motor-evoked potentials were the most commonly used TMS techniques and showed relationships with disease severity, motor impairment, and fatigue. Short-latency afferent inhibition was the only outcome related to cognitive impairment. Although there is insufficient evidence for TMS in clinical assessments of MS, this review serves as a template to inform future research.