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Exp Brain Res. 2013 Apr;225(4):513-26. doi: 10.1007/s00221-012-3391-2. Epub 2013 Jan 11.

Features of cortical neuroplasticity associated with multidirectional novel motor skill training: a TMS mapping study.

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Department of Health Science and Technology, Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction, Aalborg University, 9220, Aalborg, Denmark.


Given the evidence that the primary motor cortex (MI) consists of subpopulations of upper motor neurons tuned to different directional parameters of a motor movement, this study hypothesized that novel motor skill training involving either a bidirectional or more complex multidirectional tongue-typing movement should produce distinct training-related features of tongue MI neuroplasticity in humans. Novel motor skill training consisted of tongue typing using custom-made intra-oral keypads for 30-min over two consecutive days. The bidirectional keypad consisted of three sensors positioned along the upper palatal midline as a 3 × 1 array, whereas the multidirectional keypad consisted of nine sensors arranged as a 3 × 3 array that was centred along the upper palatal midline. Each sensor corresponded to one letter and participants were asked to type sequences of letters by accurately placing the tongue over the correct sensor. Before and after each training session, excitability of the tongue MI was assessed with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)-motor evoked potentials (MEPs) over 13 motor map sites and TMS-MEP stimulus-response curves were constructed for the first dorsal interosseous (FDI, as an internal control). Tongue-typing performance improved within and across training days for both groups; although bidirectional training displayed greater success. Bidirectional and multidirectional training were associated with increases and decreases in a number of cortical motor map sites from where tongue activity could be evoked, however; multidirectional training was associated with a greater number of cortical motor map sites with increased excitability and a shift in the centre of gravity of the motor map. No effects of training were found on the FDI TMS-MEP stimulus-response curves. This study revealed distinct training-related features of tongue MI neuroplasticity and proposes that a greater amount of functionally related neuronal populations may be 'trained' by the inclusion of different and more complex directional parameters within a novel motor task.

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