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Exp Brain Res. 2012 Oct;222(3):211-7. Epub 2012 Aug 21.

Adaptation of surround inhibition in the human motor system.

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Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, UCL Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK.


Adaptation of a rapid ballistic movement requires that commands for the next movement are updated on the basis of sensory error signals from the current movement. Previous experiments, mostly using visual feedback, have demonstrated that adaptation is highly sensitive to the timing of feedback and can be substantially impaired by delays of 100 ms or so. Here, we use the phenomenon of surround inhibition (SI) to explore the consequences of somatosensory feedback delay in a task requiring participants to flex the index finger without generating any electromyographical (EMG) activity in other fingers. Participants were requested to perform brief isolated flexion movements of the index finger. After a short period of practice, SI in the distant abductor digiti minimi (ADM) muscle was quantified by measuring the amplitude of EMG responses evoked by a standard pulse of transcranial magnetic stimulation to the contralateral motor cortex at the onset of flexion. SI indicates that the response during flexion was smaller than the response at rest. After this, two training blocks were performed in which the ADM muscle was vibrated (80 Hz, 100 ms) either at the onset (VIB(onset)) of finger flexion or with a delay of 100 ms (VIB(100)). SI was reassessed after training. SI measured after VIB(onset) training was transiently more effective than at baseline. In contrast, SI was unchanged compared to baseline after VIB(100). The present study demonstrates that SI can be modified by experience. The timing of the sensory stimulation was found to be critical for the modification of SI, suggesting that only sensory signals closely related to the movement onset can induce adaptive changes, presumably through a feed-forward process.

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