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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57425. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057425. Epub 2013 Feb 21.

Evolution of premotor cortical excitability after cathodal inhibition of the primary motor cortex: a sham-controlled serial navigated TMS study.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.



Premotor cortical regions (PMC) play an important role in the orchestration of motor function, yet their role in compensatory mechanisms in a disturbed motor system is largely unclear. Previous studies are consistent in describing pronounced anatomical and functional connectivity between the PMC and the primary motor cortex (M1). Lesion studies consistently show compensatory adaptive changes in PMC neural activity following an M1 lesion. Non-invasive brain modification of PMC neural activity has shown compensatory neurophysiological aftereffects in M1. These studies have contributed to our understanding of how M1 responds to changes in PMC neural activity. Yet, the way in which the PMC responds to artificial inhibition of M1 neural activity is unclear. Here we investigate the neurophysiological consequences in the PMC and the behavioral consequences for motor performance of stimulation mediated M1 inhibition by cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).


The primary goal was to determine how electrophysiological measures of PMC excitability change in order to compensate for inhibited M1 neural excitability and attenuated motor performance.


Cathodal inhibition of M1 excitability leads to a compensatory increase of ipsilateral PMC excitability.


We enrolled 16 healthy participants in this randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled, crossover design study. All participants underwent navigated transcranial magnetic stimulation (nTMS) to identify PMC and M1 corticospinal projections as well as to evaluate electrophysiological measures of cortical, intracortical and interhemispheric excitability. Cortical M1 excitability was inhibited using cathodal tDCS. Finger-tapping speeds were used to examine motor function.


Cathodal tDCS successfully reduced M1 excitability and motor performance speed. PMC excitability was increased for longer and was the only significant predictor of motor performance.


The PMC compensates for attenuated M1 excitability and contributes to motor performance maintenance.

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