Research Summary: Excitability of the Motor Cortex Ipsilateral to the Moving Body Side Depends on Spatio-Temporal Task Complexity and Hemispheric Specialization


Unilateral movements are mainly controlled by the contralateral hemisphere, even though the primary motor cortex ipsilateral (M1ipsi) to the moving body side can undergo task-related changes of activity as well. Here we used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to investigate whether representations of the wrist flexor (FCR) and extensor (ECR) in M1ipsi would be modulated when unilateral rhythmical wrist movements were executed in isolation or in the context of a simple or difficult hand-foot coordination pattern, and whether this modulation would differ for the left versus right hemisphere. We found that M1ipsi facilitation of the resting ECR and FCR mirrored the activation of the moving wrist such that facilitation was higher when the homologous muscle was activated during the cyclical movement. We showed that this ipsilateral facilitation increased significantly when the wrist movements were performed in the context of demanding hand-foot coordination tasks whereas foot movements alone influenced the hand representation of M1ipsi only slightly. Our data revealed a clear hemispheric asymmetry such that MEP responses were significantly larger when elicited in the left M1ipsi than in the right. In experiment 2, we tested whether the modulations of M1ipsi facilitation, caused by performing different coordination tasks with the left versus right body sides, could be explained by changes in short intracortical inhibition (SICI). We found that SICI was increasingly reduced for a complex coordination pattern as compared to rest, but only in the right M1ipsi. We argue that our results might reflect the stronger involvement of the left versus right hemisphere in performing demanding motor tasks.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 9-March-2011

Author(s): van den Berg F., Swinnen S., Wenderoth N.


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