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J Neurophysiol. 2015 May 1;113(9):3446-52. doi: 10.1152/jn.00992.2014. Epub 2015 Mar 4.

Training voluntary motor suppression with real-time feedback of motor evoked potentials.

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Department of Psychology and Neurosciences Graduate Program, University of California, San Diego, California.
Department of Psychology and Neurosciences Graduate Program, University of California, San Diego, California


Training people to suppress motor representations voluntarily could improve response control. We evaluated a novel training procedure of real-time feedback of motor evoked potentials (MEPs) generated by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over motor cortex. On each trial, a cue instructed participants to use a mental strategy to suppress a particular finger representation without overt movement. A single pulse of TMS was delivered over motor cortex, and an MEP-derived measure of hand motor excitability was delivered visually to the participant within 500 ms. In experiment 1, we showed that participants learned to reduce the excitability of a particular finger beneath baseline (selective motor suppression) within 30 min of practice. In experiment 2, we performed a double-blind study with 2 training groups (1 with veridical feedback and 1 with matched sham feedback) to show that selective motor suppression depends on the veridical feedback itself. Experiment 3 further demonstrated the importance of veridical feedback by showing that selective motor suppression did not arise from mere mental imagery, even when incentivized with reward. Thus participants can use real-time feedback of TMS-induced MEPs to discover an effective mental strategy for selective motor suppression. This high-temporal-resolution, trial-by-trial-feedback training method could be used to help people better control response tendencies and may serve as a potential therapy for motor disorders such as Tourette's and dystonia.


inhibitory control; mental imagery; transcranial magnetic stimulation

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