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J Physiol. 2006 Jun 15;573(Pt 3):843-55. Epub 2006 Mar 31.

Changes in corticospinal drive to spinal motoneurones following visuo-motor skill learning in humans.

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Department of Medical Physiology, Panum Institute, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 3, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark.


We have previously demonstrated an increase in the excitability of the leg motor cortical area in relation to acquisition of a visuo-motor task in healthy humans. It remains unknown whether the interaction between corticospinal drive and spinal motoneurones is also modulated following motor skill learning. Here we investigated the effect of visuo-motor skill training involving the ankle muscles on the coupling between electroencephalographic (EEG) activity recorded from the motor cortex (Cz) and electromyographic (EMG) activity recorded from the left tibialis anterior (TA) muscle in 11 volunteers. Coupling in the time (cumulant density function) and frequency domains (coherence) between EEG-EMG and EMG-EMG activity were calculated during tonic isometric dorsiflexion before and after 32 min of training a visuo-motor tracking task involving the ankle muscles or performing alternating dorsi- and plantarflexion movements without visual feedback. A significant increase in EEG-EMG coherence around 15-35 Hz was observed following the visuo-motor skill session in nine subjects and in only one subject after the control task. Changes in coherence were specific to the trained muscle as coherence for the untrained contralateral TA muscle was unchanged. EEG and EMG power were unchanged following the training. Our results suggest that visuo-motor skill training is associated with changes in the corticospinal drive to spinal motorneurones. Possibly these changes reflect sensorimotor integration processes between cortex and muscle as part of the motor learning process.

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