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J Neurophysiol. 2010 May;103(5):2675-83. doi: 10.1152/jn.00006.2010. Epub 2010 Mar 17.

Changes in spinal reflex excitability associated with motor sequence learning.

Author information

1
Unité de Neuroimagerie Fonctionelle, Centre de Recherche de l'Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. o.lungu@umontreal.ca

Abstract

There is ample evidence that motor sequence learning is mediated by changes in brain activity. Yet the question of whether this form of learning elicits changes detectable at the spinal cord level has not been addressed. To date, studies in humans have revealed that spinal reflex activity may be altered during the acquisition of various motor skills, but a link between motor sequence learning and changes in spinal excitability has not been demonstrated. To address this issue, we studied the modulation of H-reflex amplitude evoked in the flexor carpi radialis muscle of 14 healthy individuals between blocks of movements that involved the implicit acquisition of a sequence versus other movements that did not require learning. Each participant performed the task in three conditions: "sequence"-externally triggered, repeating and sequential movements, "random"-similar movements, but performed in an arbitrary order, and "simple"- involving alternating movements in a left-right or up-down direction only. When controlling for background muscular activity, H-reflex amplitude was significantly more reduced in the sequence (43.8 +/- 1.47%. mean +/- SE) compared with the random (38.2 +/- 1.60%) and simple (31.5 +/- 1.82%) conditions, while the M-response was not different across conditions. Furthermore, H-reflex changes were observed from the beginning of the learning process up to when subjects reached asymptotic performance on the motor task. Changes also persisted for >60 s after motor activity ceased. Such findings suggest that the excitability in some spinal reflex circuits is altered during the implicit learning process of a new motor sequence.

PMID:
20237314
DOI:
10.1152/jn.00006.2010
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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