Role of the primary motor and sensory cortex in precision grasping: a transcranial magnetic stimulation study

S M Schabrun, M C Ridding, T S Miles
European Journal of Neuroscience 2008, 27 (3): 750-6
Human precision grip requires precise scaling of the grip force to match the weight and frictional conditions of the object. The ability to produce an accurately scaled grip force prior to lifting an object is thought to be the result of an internal feedforward model. However, relatively little is known about the roles of various brain regions in the control of such precision grip-lift synergies. Here we investigate the role of the primary motor (M1) and sensory (S1) cortices during a grip-lift task using inhibitory transcranial magnetic theta-burst stimulation (TBS). Fifteen healthy individuals received 40 s of either (i) M1 TBS, (ii) S1 TBS or (iii) sham stimulation. Following a 5-min rest, subjects lifted a manipulandum five times using a precision grip or completed a simple reaction time task. Following S1 stimulation, the duration of the pre-load phase was significantly longer than following sham stimulation. Following M1 stimulation, the temporal relationship between changes in grip and load force was altered, with changes in grip force coming to lag behind changes in load force. This result contrasts with that seen in the sham condition where changes in grip force preceded changes in load force. No significant difference was observed in the simple reaction task following either M1 or S1 stimulation. These results further quantify the contribution of the M1 to anticipatory grip-force scaling. In addition, they provide the first evidence for the contribution of S1 to object manipulation, suggesting that sensory information is not necessary for optimal functioning of anticipatory control.

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