The gain of initial somatosensory evoked potentials alters with practice of an accurate motor task
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The gain of somatosensory afferent paths from the lower limb to the cerebral cortex was investigated during the acquisition of one target location during plantar flexion. Sensory gain was measured as the magnitude of somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) following electrical stimulation of a peripheral nerve in the lower limb, and was recorded from the scalp. We hypothesized gain attenuation of SEPs from sensory paths serving the limb segment responsible for target acquisition. SEP gain was studied as subjects plantar flexed about the anide to a target that was 15 degrees beyond the occurrence of a cutaneous stimulus (cue) to the lateral border of the foot. The "cue" was either fixed in one location or could appear at one of three positions in space. SEP gain was tested during practice and with task acquisition. Electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings were made of primary and secondary complexes of cortical SEPs from sural and tibial nerve stimulation, with 30-40 samples averaged per subject-condition. Electromyographic (EMG) records were made of soleus muscle H-reflexes and M-waves. Target acquisition was recorded as percent correct hits. The results showed significant attenuation in sural and tibial nerve primary SEPs with task acquisition when the cue was fixed or varied in movement space (P<0.05). Secondary SEPs from tibial nerve followed this pattern. Spinal H-reflexes only attenuated with movement per se. We conclude that the CNS preferentially reduces the cerebral inflow of sensory information once such a motor task has been successfully acquired.
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