BACKGROUND: Cortical oscillatory activities play a role in regulating several brain functions in humans. However, whether motor resonant oscillations (i.e. β and γ) modulate long-term depression (LTD)-like plasticity of the primary motor cortex (M1) is still unclear.
OBJECTIVE: To address this issue, we combined transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), a technique able to entrain cortical oscillations, with continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS), a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) protocol commonly used to induce LTD-like plasticity in M1.
METHODS: Motor evoked potentials (MEPs) elicited by single-pulse TMS, short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) and intracortical facilitation (ICF) were evaluated before and 5, 15 and 30 min after cTBS alone or cTBS delivered during β-tACS (cTBS-β) or γ-tACS (cTBS-γ). Moreover, we tested the effects of β-tACS (alone) on short-latency afferent inhibition (SAI) and γ-tACS on SICI in order to verify whether tACS-related interneuronal modulation contributes to the effects of tACS-cTBS co-stimulation.
RESULTS: cTBS-γ turned the expected after-effects of cTBS from inhibition to facilitation. By contrast, responses to cTBS-β were similar to those induced by cTBS alone. β- and γ-tACS did not change MEPs evoked by single-pulse TMS. β-tACS reduced SAI and γ-tACS reduced SICI. However, the degree of γ-tACS-induced modulation of SICI did not correlate with the effects of cTBS-γ.
CONCLUSION: γ-tACS reverses cTBS-induced plasticity of the human M1. γ-oscillations may therefore regulate LTD-like plasticity mechanisms.