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Time-dependent modulations in corticospinal excitability during motor learning

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The primary motor cortex (M1) plays a vital role in motor planning and execution, as well as in motor learning. Baseline corticospinal excitability (CSE) in M1 is known to increase

The primary motor cortex (M1) plays a vital role in motor planning and execution, as well as in motor learning. Baseline corticospinal excitability (CSE) in M1 is known to increase as a result of motor learning, but less is understand about the modulation of CSE at the pre-execution planning stage due to learning. This question was addressed using single pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to measure the modulation of both baseline and planning CSE due to learning a reach to grasp task. It was hypothesized that baseline CSE would increase and planning CSE decrease as a function of trial; an increase in baseline CSE would replicate established findings in the literature, while a decrease in planning would be a novel finding. Eight right-handed subjects were visually cued to exert a precise grip force, with the goal of producing that force accurately and consistently. Subjects effectively learned the task in the first 10 trials, but no significant trends were found in the modulation of baseline or planning CSE. The lack of significant results may be due to the very quick learning phase or the lower intensity of training as compared to past studies. The findings presented here suggest that planning and baseline CSE may be modulated along different time courses as learning occurs and point to some important considerations for future studies addressing this question.

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  • 2015-05