To examine whether afferent stimulation of hand muscles has a facilitating effect on motor performance, learning and cortical excitability, healthy subjects were trained on the grooved pegboard test (GTP) while wearing a mesh glove (MG) with incorporated electrical stimulation. Three study groups (n=12) were compared in a between subjects design, the bare handed (BH), gloved (MG) and gloved with electrical stimulation (MGS) groups. Motor performance was assessed by the GPT completion time across 4 training blocks, and further one block was retested 7 days later to determine the off-line effects. On-line learning was obtained by normalizing the completion time values to the first training block, and off-line learning was obtained by normalizing the retest values to the last training block. Cortical excitability was assessed via single and paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) at pre-training, post-training and 30 min post-training. Motor evoked potential recruitment curve, short-latency intracortical inhibition and intracortical facilitation were estimated from the TMS assessments. Motor performance across all 4 training blocks was poor in the MG and MGS groups, while on-line learning was not affected by wearing the glove or by afferent stimulation. However, off-line learning, tested 7 days after training, was improved in the MGS group compared to the MG group. In addition, post-training corticospinal excitability was increased in the MGS group. It can be concluded that afferent stimulation improves off-line learning and thus has a positive effect on motor memory, likely due to LTP-like cortical plasticity in the consolidation phase.
Useful keywords (using NLM MeSH Indexing)
Evoked Potentials, Motor/physiology*
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation