The excitability of the motor cortex is modulated before and after voluntary movements. Transcranial magnetic stimulation studies showed increased corticospinal excitability from about 80 and 100 ms before EMG onset for simple reaction time and self-paced movements, respectively. Following voluntary movements, there are two phases of increased corticospinal excitability from 0 to approximately 100 ms and from approximately 100 to 160 ms after EMG offset. The first phase may correspond to the frontal peak of motor potential in movement-related cortical potentials studies and the movement-evoked magnetic field I (MEFI) in magnetoencephalographic (MEG) studies, and likely represents a time when decreasing output from the motor cortex falls below that required for activation of spinal motoneurons, but is still above resting levels. The second phase of increased corticospinal excitability may be due to peripheral proprioceptive inputs or may be centrally programmed representing a subthreshold, second agonist burst. This may correspond to the MEFII in MEG studies. Corticospinal excitability was reduced below baseline levels from about 500 to 1,000 ms after EMG offset, similar to the timing of increase in the power (event-related synchronization, ERS) of motor cortical rhythm. Similarly, motor cortex excitability is reduced at the time of ERS of motor cortical rhythm following median nerve stimulation. These findings support the hypothesis that ERS represents an inactive, idling state of the cortex. The time course of cortical activation is abnormal in movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease and dystonia, reflecting abnormalities in both movement preparation and in cortical excitability following movement.