Further insight into the task-dependent excitability of motor evoked potentials in first dorsal interosseous muscle in humans

Y Hasegawa, T Kasai, T Tsuji, S Yahagi
Experimental Brain Research. Experimentelle Hirnforschung. Expérimentation Cérébrale 2001, 140 (4): 387-96
We have reexamined the contradictory evidence in which task-dependent excitation of motor evoked potentials (MEPs) in the first dorsal interosseous (FDI) muscle was stronger with increasingly more complex finger tasks than with individual finger movement tasks. In the first step of the experiment, based on previous findings, we investigated remarkable functional differences between intrinsic and extrinsic hand muscles during complex finger tasks (precision and power grip). During the performance of the tasks, the optimal stimulus intensity of the transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was applied to the contralateral motor cortex. MEPs of the FDI, extensor carpi radialis (ECR), and flexor carpi radialis (FCR) muscles were recorded simultaneously with increased background EMG activity step by step in both tasks. The intensity threshold of TMS was lower in the precision grip. Furthermore, the MEP amplitudes of FDI muscle dependent on the background EMG activity were different between these two tasks, i.e., MEP amplitudes and regression coefficients in a precision grip were larger than those in a power grip. Although our results for MEP amplitude and threshold in the FDI muscle were similar to previous reported evidence, the different contributions of a synergistic muscle (in particular, the ECR muscle) during performance in these tasks was new evidence. Since there were no differences in cutaneous afferent effects on both tasks, corticomotoneuronal (CM) cells connected to FDI motoneurons seemed generally to be more active during precision than power gripping, and there were different contributions from synergistic muscles during the performance of these tasks. In the second part of the experiment, the results obtained from the complex tasks were compared with those from a simple task (isolated index finger flexion). MEP amplitudes, dependent on the background EMG activity during isolated index finger flexion, varied among subjects, i.e., the relationship between the MEP amplitude and the background EMG of the FDI muscle showed individual, strategy-dependent modulation. There were several kinds of individual motor strategies for performing the isolated finger movement. The present results may explain the previous contradictory evidence related to the contribution of the CM system during coordinated finger movement.

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