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J Physiol. 2012 Nov 15;590(22):5765-81. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.238519. Epub 2012 Aug 28.

Homeostatic metaplasticity of corticospinal excitatory and intracortical inhibitory neural circuits in human motor cortex.

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Department of Neurology, Goethe-University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Homeostatic metaplasticity, a fundamental principle for maintaining overall synaptic weight in the physiological range in neuronal networks, was demonstrated at the cellular and systems level predominantly for excitatory synaptic neurotransmission. Although inhibitory networks are crucial for regulating excitability, it is largely unknown to what extent homeostatic metaplasticity of inhibition also exists. Here, we employed intermittent and continuous transcranial magnetic theta burst stimulation (iTBS, cTBS) of the primary motor cortex in healthy subjects for induction of long-term potentiation (LTP)-like and long-term depression (LTD)-like plasticity. We studied metaplasticity by testing the interactions of priming TBS with LTP/LTD-like plasticity induced by subsequent test TBS. Changes in excitatory neurotransmission were measured by the input-output curve of motor-evoked potentials (IO-MEP), and changes in GABA(A)ergic inhibitory neurotransmission by the IO of short-interval intracortical inhibition (IO-SICI, four conditioning stimulus intensities of 70-100% active motor threshold, interstimulus interval 2.0 ms). Non-primed iTBS increased IO-MEP, while non-primed cTBS decreased IO-MEP. Pairing of identical protocols (iTBSiTBS, cTBScTBS) resulted in suppression of the non-primed TBS effects on IO-MEP, and pairing of different protocols (cTBSiTBS, iTBScTBS) enhanced the test TBS effects on IO-MEP. While non-primed TBS did not result in significant changes of IO-SICI, iTBSiTBS resulted in IO-SICI decrease, and cTBScTBS in IO-SICI increase compared with the non-primed conditions. The changes in SICI induced by priming TBS correlated with the changes in MEP induced by subsequent test TBS. Findings demonstrate that plasticity in both excitatory and inhibitory circuits in the human motor cortex are regulated by homeostatic metaplasticity, and that priming effects on inhibition contribute to the homeostatic regulation of metaplasticity in excitatory circuits.

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