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Exp Brain Res. 2003 May;150(2):222-9. Epub 2003 Apr 2.

Task-dependent modulation of excitatory and inhibitory functions within the human primary motor cortex.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Neurologiche e della Visione, Sezione di Neurologia Riabilitativa, Università di Verona, Policlinico G. B. Rossi, P.le A. L. Scuro, 37134, Verona, Italy.


We evaluated motor evoked potentials (MEPs) and duration of the cortical silent period (CSP) from the right first dorsal interosseous (FDI) muscle to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the left motor cortex in ten healthy subjects performing different manual tasks. They abducted the index finger alone, pressed a strain gauge with the thumb and index finger in a pincer grip, and squeezed a 4-cm brass cylinder with all digits in a power grip. The level of FDI EMG activity across tasks was kept constant by providing subjects with acoustic-visual feedback of their muscle activity. The TMS elicited larger amplitude FDI MEPs during pincer and power grip than during the index finger abduction task, and larger amplitude MEPs during pincer gripping than during power gripping. The CSP was shorter during pincer and power grip than during the index finger abduction task and shorter during power gripping than during pincer gripping. These results suggest excitatory and inhibitory task-dependent changes in the motor cortex. Complex manual tasks (pincer and power gripping) elicit greater motor cortical excitation than a simple task (index finger abduction) presumably because they activate multiple synergistic muscles thus facilitating corticomotoneurons. The finger abduction task probably yielded greater motor cortical inhibition than the pincer and power tasks because muscles uninvolved in the task activated the cortical inhibitory circuit. Increased cortical excitatory and inhibitory functions during precision tasks (pincer gripping) probably explain why MEPs have larger amplitudes and CSPs have longer durations during pincer gripping than during power gripping.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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