Modulation of left primary motor cortex excitability after bimanual training and intermittent theta burst stimulation to left dorsal premotor cortex
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Bimanual visuomotor movement training (BMT) enhances the excitability of human preparatory premotor and primary motor (M1) cortices compared to unimanual movement. This occurs when BMT involves mirror symmetrical movements of both upper-limbs (in-phase) but not with non-symmetrical movements (anti-phase). The neural mechanisms mediating the effect of BMT is unclear, but may involve interhemispheric connections between homologous M1 representations as well as the dorsal premotor cortices (PMd). The purpose of this study is to assess how intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS) of the left PMd affects left M1 excitability, and the possible combined effects of iTBS to left PMd applied before a single session of BMT. Left M1 excitability was quantified using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in terms of both the amplitudes and spatial extent of motor evoked potentials (MEPs) for the extensor carpi radialis (ECR) before and multiple time points following (1) BMT, (2) iTBS to left PMd or (3) iTBS to left PMd and BMT. Although there was not a greater increase in either specific measure of M1 excitability due to the combination of the interventions, iTBS applied before BMT showed that both the spatial extent and global MEP amplitude for the ECR became larger in parallel, whereas the spatial extent was enhanced with BMT alone and global MEP amplitude was enhanced with iTBS to left PMd alone. These results suggest that the modulation of rapid functional M1 excitability associated with BMT and iTBS of the left PMd could operate under related early markers of neuro-plastic mechanisms, which may be expressed in concurrent and distinct patterns of M1 excitability. Critically, this work may guide rehabilitation training and stimulation techniques that modulate cortical excitability after brain injury.
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