Theta-burst stimulation over primary motor cortex degrades early motor learning

Eur J Neurosci. 2010 Feb;31(3):585-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2010.07090.x. Epub 2010 Jan 25.


Theta-burst stimulation (TBS) is currently used for inducing long-lasting changes in primary motor cortex (M1) excitability. More information is needed on how M1 is involved in early motor learning (practice-related improvement in motor performance, motor retention and motor consolidation). We investigated whether inhibitory continuous TBS (cTBS) is an effective experimental approach for modulating early motor learning of a simple finger movement in healthy humans. In a short task, 11 subjects practised 160 movements, and in a longer task also testing motor consolidation ten subjects practised 600 movements. During both experiments subjects randomly received real or sham cTBS over the left M1. Motor evoked potentials were tested at baseline and 7 min after cTBS. In the 160-movement experiment to test motor retention, 20 movements were repeated 30 min after motor practice ended. In the 600-movement experiment motor retention was assessed 15 and 30 min after motor practice ended, motor consolidation was tested by performing 20 movements 24 h after motor practice ended. Kinematic variables - movement amplitude, peak velocity and peak acceleration - were measured. cTBS significantly reduced the practice-related improvement in motor performance of finger movements in the experiment involving 160 movements and in the first part of the experiment involving 600 movements. After cTBS, peak velocity and peak acceleration of the 20 movements testing motor retention decreased whereas those testing motor consolidation remained unchanged. cTBS over M1 degrades practice-related improvement in motor performance and motor retention, but not motor consolidation of a voluntary finger movement.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fingers / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods