We investigated the effects of lumbosacral and pudendal nerve stimulation on the corticofugal pathways to the human external anal sphincter. In 11 healthy subjects, anal sphincter electromyographic responses, evoked to transcranial magnetic stimulation of the motor cortex, were recorded 5-500 ms after lumbosacral root or pudendal nerve stimulation. Lumbosacral and pudendal nerve stimulation alone evoked responses with amplitudes of 293 +/- 73 and 401 +/- 153 microV and latencies of 3.2 +/- 0.2 and 2.2 +/- 0.2 ms, respectively. Cortical stimulation also evoked responses with amplitudes of 351 +/- 104 microV and latencies of 20.9 +/- 1.1 ms. When lumbosacral or pudendal nerve stimulation preceded cortical stimulation, the cortically evoked responses were facilitated (P < 0.01), with the effect appearing greatest at 5-20 ms after both lumbosacral and pudendal excitation and at 50-100 ms after lumbosacral excitation alone. Our results demonstrate that cortical pathways to the external anal sphincter are facilitated by prior lumbosacral and pudendal nerve stimulation, indicating that sensorimotor interactions are important in the central neural control of sphincter function.