4 years ago

Provision of somatosensory inputs during motor imagery enhances learning-induced plasticity in human motor cortex

Laura Avanzino, Marco Bove, Ambra Bisio, Gaia Bonassi, Piero Ruggeri, Monica Biggio
Motor learning via physical practice leads to long-term potentiation (LTP)-like plasticity in motor cortex (M1) and temporary occlusion of additional LTP-like plasticity. Motor learning can be achieved through simulation of movement, namely motor imagery (MI). When combined with electrical stimulation, MI influenced M1 excitability to a larger extent than MI itself. We explored whether a training based on the combination of MI and peripheral nerve stimulation (ESMI) modulates M1 LTP-like plasticity inducing retention of a new acquired skill. Twelve subjects mentally performed thumb-index movements, with synchronous electrical nerve stimulation, following an acoustic cue, in order to increase movement speed. Two control groups physically performed or imagined the same number of finger movements following the acoustic cue. After each training session, M1 LTP-like plasticity was assessed by using PAS25 (paired associative stimulation) technique. Performance was tested before and after training and 24 hours after training. Results showed that physical practice and ESMI training similarly increased movement speed, prevented the subsequent PAS25-induced LTP-like plasticity, and induced retention of motor skill the following day. Training with MI had significant, but minor effects. These findings suggest that a training combining MI with somatosensory input influences motor performance through M1 plasticity similarly to motor execution.

Publisher URL: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-09597-0

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-09597-0

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