Both abrupt and gradually imposed perturbations produce adaptive changes in motor output, but the neural basis of adaptation may be distinct. Here, we measured the state of the primary motor cortex (M1) and the corticospinal network during adaptation by measuring motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) before reach onset using transcranial magnetic stimulation of M1. Subjects reached in a force field in a schedule in which the field was introduced either abruptly or gradually over many trials. In both groups, by end of the training, muscles that countered the perturbation in a given direction increased their activity during the reach (labeled as the on direction for each muscle). In the abrupt group, in the period before the reach toward the on direction, MEPs in these muscles also increased, suggesting a direction-specific increase in the excitability of the corticospinal network. However, in the gradual group, these MEP changes were missing. After training, there was a period of washout. The MEPs did not return to baseline. Rather, in the abrupt group, off direction MEPs increased to match on direction MEPs. Therefore, we observed changes in corticospinal excitability in the abrupt but not gradual condition. Abrupt training includes the repetition of motor commands, and repetition may be the key factor that produces this plasticity. Furthermore, washout did not return MEPs to baseline, suggesting that washout engaged a new network that masked but did not erase the effects of previous adaptation. Abrupt but not gradual training appears to induce changes in M1 and/or corticospinal networks.
- Motor cortex
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas