Primary motor cortex involvement in initial learning during visuomotor adaptation
Riek, S and Hinder, MR and Carson, RG, Primary motor cortex involvement in initial learning during visuomotor adaptation, Neuropsychologia: An International Journal in Behavioural Neuroscience, 50, (10) pp. 2515-2523. ISSN 0028-3932 (2012) [Refereed Article]
Human motor behaviour is continually modified on the basis of errors between desired and actual movement outcomes. It is emerging that the role played by the primary motor cortex (M1) in this process is contingent upon a variety of factors, including the nature of the task being performed, and the stage of learning. Here we used repetitive TMS to test the hypothesis that M1 is intimately involved in the initial phase of sensorimotor adaptation. Inhibitory theta burst stimulation was applied to M1 prior to a task requiring modification of torques generated about the elbow/forearm complex in response to rotations of a visual feedback display. Participants were first exposed to a 30° clockwise (CW) rotation (Block A), then a 60° counterclockwise rotation (Block B), followed immediately by a second block of 30° CW rotation (A2). In the STIM condition, participants received 20. s of continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) prior to the initial A Block. In the conventional (CON) condition, no stimulation was applied. The overt characteristics of performance in the two conditions were essentially equivalent with respect to the errors exhibited upon exposure to a new variant of the task. There were however, profound differences between the conditions in the latency of response preparation, and the excitability of corticospinal projections from M1, which accompanied phases of de-adaptation and re-adaptation (during Blocks B and A2). Upon subsequent exposure to the A rotation 24. h later, the rate of re-adaptation was lower in the stimulation condition than that present in the conventional condition. These results support the assertion that primary motor cortex assumes a key role in a network that mediates adaptation to visuomotor perturbation, and emphasise that it is engaged functionally during the early phase of learning.