Use of imperceptible wrist vibration to modulate sensorimotor cortical activity

Exp Brain Res. 2019 Mar;237(3):805-816. doi: 10.1007/s00221-018-05465-z. Epub 2019 Jan 3.


Peripheral sensory stimulation has been used as a method to stimulate the sensorimotor cortex, with applications in neurorehabilitation. To improve delivery modality and usability, a new stimulation method has been developed in which imperceptible random-frequency vibration is applied to the wrist concurrently during hand activity. The objective of this study was to investigate effects of this new sensory stimulation on the sensorimotor cortex. Healthy adults were studied. In a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) study, resting motor threshold, short-interval intracortical inhibition, and intracortical facilitation for the abductor pollicis brevis muscle were compared between vibration on vs. off, while subjects were at rest. In an electroencephalogram (EEG) study, alpha and beta power during rest and event-related desynchronization (ERD) for hand grip were compared between vibration on vs. off. Results showed that vibration decreased EEG power and decreased TMS short-interval intracortical inhibition (i.e., disinhibition) compared with no vibration at rest. Grip-related ERD was also greater during vibration, compared to no vibration. In conclusion, subthreshold random-frequency wrist vibration affected the release of intracortical inhibition and both resting and grip-related sensorimotor cortical activity. Such effects may have implications in rehabilitation.

Keywords: Brain mapping; Cortical excitability; Hand; Physical stimulation; Sensorimotor cortex; Subliminal stimulation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Waves / physiology*
  • Cortical Synchronization / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Vibration
  • Wrist / physiology
  • Young Adult