Cortical topography of human first dorsal interroseus during individuated and nonindividuated grip tasks

Karen T Reilly, Catherine Mercier
Human Brain Mapping 2008, 29 (5): 594-602
Neural activity in the motor cortex and its descending projections is modulated in a task-related manner. Several TMS studies have shown that when normal human subjects execute different manual tasks requiring similar contraction levels in first dorsal interroseous (FDI) there is a task-related modulation of the amplitude of FDI motor evoked potentials (MEPs). Not all studies of task-related changes show the same pattern of results, however. One reason for this might be methodological. Studies have assessed task-related changes by stimulating a single site, which can provide information about task-related changes in the excitability of the cortex at that site, but which is not sensitive to excitability changes throughout the muscle's cortical representation. We investigated how the execution of an individuated versus a nonindividuated isometric grasping task affected the excitability of FDI's entire cortical representation. We examined FDI MEP amplitudes while subjects grasped an object between their thumb and index finger, or when they grasped the same object between their thumb and all four fingers, keeping the background level of EMG in FDI constant for the two tasks. We found no overall task-related change in the excitability of FDI or its cortical topography, possibly due to behavioral differences of individual subjects. The stability of FDI's cortical representation during two different manual tasks expands the possibilities for studying cortical reorganization in the context of active muscle contraction, which will enable us to better understand whether changes in the motor system observed when muscles are at rest are also present during voluntary muscle recruitment.

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