A novel protocol to investigate motor training-induced plasticity and sensorimotor integration in the cerebellum and motor cortex

Julianne Baarbé, Paul Yielder, Julian Daligadu, Hushyar Behbahani, Heidi Haavik, Bernadette Murphy
Journal of Neurophysiology 2014, 111 (4): 715-21
Our group set out to develop a sensitive technique, capable of detecting output changes from the posterior fossa following a motor acquisition task. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was applied over the right cerebellar cortex 5 ms in advance of test stimuli over the left cerebral motor cortex (M1), suppressing test motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) recorded in a distal hand muscle. Ten participants typed the letters Z, D, F, and P in randomized 8-letter sequences for ∼15 min, and 10 participants took part in the control condition. Cerebellar-M1 recruitment curves were established before and after the motor acquisition task. Cerebellar inhibition at 50% (CBI50) was defined as the intensity of cerebellar-M1 stimulations that produced MEPs that were 50% of the initial test MEP. Collection also occurred at stimulator intensities 5 and 10% above CBI50. A significant interaction effect of group (experimental and control) vs. time (pre- and postintervention) was observed [F(1,18) = 4.617, P = 0.046]. Post hoc tests showed a significant effect for the learning task in the experimental group [F(1,9) = 10.28, P = 0.01]. Further analysis showed specific disinhibition at CBI50 (P = 0.04), CBI50+5% (P = 0.008), and CBI50+10% (P = 0.01) for the experimental group only. Reaction time (P < 0.001) and accuracy (P = 0.006) improved significantly following practice, implying that disinhibition coincides with motor learning. No changes, however, were seen in the control condition. We conclude that this protocol is a sensitive technique that may be used to study cerebellar disinhibition with motor acquisition in vivo.

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