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Neuroscientist. 2015 Apr;21(2):185-202. doi: 10.1177/1073858414526645. Epub 2014 Mar 11.

Metaplasticity in human cortex.

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Department of Neurology and Stroke, Eberhard-Karls University Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.
Department of Neurology and Stroke, Eberhard-Karls University Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany


Metaplasticity refers to the modification of plasticity induction (direction, magnitude, duration) by previous activity of the same postsynaptic neuron or neuronal network. In recent years evidence from animal studies has been accumulated that metaplasticity significantly contributes to network function and behavior. Here, we review the evidence for metaplasticity at the system level of the human cortex as investigated by non-invasive brain stimulation. These studies support the notion that metaplasticity is also operative in the human brain and is mostly homeostatic in nature, that is, keeping network activity within a physiological range. However, non-homeostatic metaplasticity has also been described, which can increase non-invasive brain stimulation-induced aftereffects on cortical excitability, or learning. Current evidence further suggests that aberrant metaplasticity may underlie some neurological and psychiatric diseases. Finally, first proof-of-principle studies show that the concept of metaplasticity can be harnessed for treatment of patients suffering from brain diseases.


long-term depression; long-term potentiation; metaplasticity; motor cortex; motor learning; non-invasive brain stimulation; transcranial direct current stimulation; transcranial magnetic stimulation

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