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Dev Med Child Neurol. 2000 Apr;42(4):220-7.

Development of the corticospinal system and hand motor function: central conduction times and motor performance tests.

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Department of Neuropediatrics and Muscle Disorders, University of Freiburg, Germany.


Maturation of the corticospinal (CS) tract and hand motor function provide paradigms for central nervous system development. In this study, involving 112 participants (aged from 0.2 to 30 years), we evaluated central motor conduction times (CMCT) obtained with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) during preinnervation conditions of facilitation and relaxation. Auditory reaction time, velocity of a ballistic movement of the arm, finger tapping, diadochokinesis, and fine motor visuomanual tracking were also examined. The maturation profiles for every parameter were calculated. CMCTs for the different preinnervation conditions reached adult values at different times and this could be explained by maturation of excitability at the cortical and spinal level. A stable phase for CMCTs and reaction time was reached during childhood. Parameters which measured motor speed and skill indicated that the development of these continued into adulthood. The maturation of the fast CS tract seems to be completed before the acquisition of the related motor performance has been accomplished. In conclusion, we could demonstrate that data from several neurophysiological methods can be combined and used to study the maturation of the function of the nervous system. This approach could allow appraisal of pathological conditions that show parallels with omissions or lack of developmental progress.

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