Visuomotor task acquisition is reduced by priming paired associative stimulation in older adults

Neurobiol Aging. 2019 Sep:81:67-76. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2019.05.017. Epub 2019 May 29.


Transcranial magnetic stimulation may represent an effective means for improving motor function in the elderly. The aim of this study was therefore to investigate the effects of paired associative stimulation (PAS; a plasticity-inducing transcranial magnetic stimulation paradigm) on acquisition of a novel visuomotor task in young and older adults. Fourteen young (20.4 ± 0.6 years) and 13 older (69.0 ± 1.6 years) adults participated in 3 experimental sessions during which training was preceded (primed) by PAS. Within each session, the interstimulus interval used for PAS was set at either the N20 latency plus 5 ms (PASLTP), the N20 latency minus 10 ms (PASLTD), or a constant 100 ms (PASControl). After training, the level of motor skill was not different between PAS conditions in young subjects (all p-values > 0.2), but was reduced by both PASLTP (p = 0.02) and PASLTD (p = 0.0001) in older subjects. Consequently, priming PAS was detrimental to skill acquisition in older adults, possibly suggesting a need for interventions that are optimized for use in elderly populations.

Keywords: Aging; Metaplasticity; Motor learning; Neuroplasticity; Paired associative stimulation; Transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult