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Neurosci Lett. 2009 Jun 26;457(2):71-4. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2009.04.015. Epub 2009 Apr 11.

Influence of 5 Hz repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on motor learning.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Ruhr-University Bochum, BG-Universitaetsklinikum Bergmannsheil, Buerkle-de-la-Camp-Platz 1, D-44789 Bochum, Germany.


The aim of our study was to assess a possible improvement in motor learning induced by 5 Hz repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) of human motor cortex. The same stimulation protocol previously enhanced perceptual learning as assessed by tactile discrimination performance when applied to the human primary somatosensory cortex. We applied 1250 pulses of 5 Hz "real" rTMS at 90% of resting motor threshold to the motor hotspot of the abductor pollicis brevis (APB) muscle in 15 healthy subjects before 1h of motor training. Furthermore, 15 subjects received 5 Hz "sham" rTMS and served as control group. The motor task consisted of a synchronized co-contraction of the right APB and deltoid muscle. The latency between the onsets of muscle contractions was measured during training and served as a parameter for motor learning. MEP amplitudes were assessed in a subgroup of 10 subjects before and after rTMS as a parameter of corticospinal excitability. We found a significant learning effect in both groups as indicated by a reduction of latencies between the onsets of muscle contractions in the course of the training. Corticospinal excitability increased after "real", but not after "sham" rTMS. However, "real" rTMS did not significantly influence motor learning as compared to "sham" rTMS. We conclude that 5 Hz rTMS of human primary motor cortex is not able to improve motor learning in healthy subjects, which might be due to the higher complexity of motor learning as compared to perceptual learning in the tactile domain.

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