Relationship Between Non-invasive Brain Stimulation-induced Plasticity and Capacity for Motor Learning

Brain Stimul. 2015 Nov-Dec;8(6):1209-19. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2015.07.042. Epub 2015 Aug 6.


Background: Cortical plasticity plays a key role in motor learning (ML). Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) paradigms have been used to modulate plasticity in the human motor cortex in order to facilitate ML. However, little is known about the relationship between NIBS-induced plasticity over M1 and ML capacity.

Hypothesis: NIBS-induced MEP changes are related to ML capacity.

Methods: 56 subjects participated in three NIBS (paired associative stimulation, anodal transcranial direct current stimulation and intermittent theta-burst stimulation), and in three lab-based ML task (serial reaction time, visuomotor adaptation and sequential visual isometric pinch task) sessions.

Analysis: After clustering the patterns of response to the different NIBS protocols, we compared the ML variables between the different patterns found. We used regression analysis to explore further the relationship between ML capacity and summary measures of the MEPs change. We ran correlations with the "responders" group only.

Results: We found no differences in ML variables between clusters. Greater response to NIBS protocols may be predictive of poor performance within certain blocks of the VAT. "Responders" to AtDCS and to iTBS showed significantly faster reaction times than "non-responders." However, the physiological significance of these results is uncertain.

Conclusion: MEP changes induced in M1 by PAS, AtDCS and iTBS appear to have little, if any, association with the ML capacity tested with the SRTT, the VAT and the SVIPT. However, cortical excitability changes induced in M1 by AtDCS and iTBS may be related to reaction time and retention of newly acquired skills in certain motor learning tasks.

Keywords: Cortical plasticity; Motor learning; Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS); Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS); Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Publication types

  • Clinical Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*
  • Young Adult