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Neural Plast. 2016;2016:7365609. doi: 10.1155/2016/7365609. Epub 2016 Aug 16.

Neuromuscular Plasticity: Disentangling Stable and Variable Motor Maps in the Human Sensorimotor Cortex.

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Division of Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery and Centre for Integrative Neuroscience, Eberhard Karls University Tuebingen, 72076 Tuebingen, Germany.


Motor maps acquired with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) are evolving as a biomarker for monitoring disease progression or the effects of therapeutic interventions. High test-retest reliability of this technique for long observation periods is therefore required to differentiate daily or weekly fluctuations from stable plastic reorganization of corticospinal connectivity. In this study, a novel projection, interpolation, and coregistration technique, which considers the individual gyral anatomy, was applied in healthy subjects for biweekly acquired TMS motor maps over a period of twelve weeks. The intraclass correlation coefficient revealed long-term reliability of motor maps with relevant interhemispheric differences. The sensorimotor cortex and nonprimary motor areas of the dominant hemisphere showed more extended and more stable corticospinal connectivity. Long-term correlations of the MEP amplitudes at each stimulation site revealed mosaic-like clusters of consistent corticospinal excitability. The resting motor threshold, centre of gravity, and mean MEPs across all TMS sites, as highly reliable cortical map parameters, could be disentangled from more variable parameters such as MEP area and volume. Cortical TMS motor maps provide high test-retest reliability for long-term monitoring when analyzed with refined techniques. They may guide restorative interventions which target dormant corticospinal connectivity for neurorehabilitation.

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