Cortical M1 plasticity and metaplasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis

Viola Baione, Daniele Belvisi, Antonio Cortese, Ilaria Cetta, Matteo Tartaglia, Enrico Millefiorini, Alfredo Berardelli, Antonella Conte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Previous studies on patients with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) have reported contrasting findings on cortical plasticity of the primary motor cortex and no study has yet evaluated the regulatory mechanisms of cortical plasticity (i.e., metaplasticity) in MS patients. The aim of the present study was to investigate primary motor cortex (M1) plasticity and metaplasticity in patients with MS.

METHODS: Nineteen patients affected by Relapsing--Remitting MS (RR-MS) and 16 age- and sex-matched healthy controls underwent intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation (iTBS) to evaluate cortical plasticity and iTBS preceded by repetitive index finger movements to evaluate M1 metaplasticity.

RESULTS: In healthy subjects MEP size significantly increased after iTBS whereas it significantly decreased when repetitive index finger movements preceded iTBS (metaplasticity) (factor PROTOCOL: p < 0.0001; PROTOCOL x TIME interaction: p = 0.001). Conversely, in MS patients MEP size mildly increased, albeit not significantly in both conditions (p > 0.05). In MS patients, percentage changes in MEP size induced by plasticity and metaplasticity protocol were significantly associated to EDSS (p = 0.001) and kinematics of index finger movements (p = 0.01).

CONCLUSION: M1 plasticity and metaplasticity are both altered in MS patients. When TBS is used for therapeutic purposes, TBS protocols should be tailored according to the M1 plasticity functional reserve of each MS patient.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101494
JournalMultiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Nov 5 2019


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