Theta-burst stimulation (TBS) is a technique that elicits long-lasting changes in the excitability of human primary motor cortex (M1). Tonic contraction of the target muscle modifies the aftereffects of TBS, whereas interactions between phasic muscle contraction and the aftereffects of TBS are unknown. In this paper, we investigated whether phasic voluntary movements influence TBS-induced changes in M1 excitability. We examined whether a brief sequence of phasic finger movements performed by healthy humans before both intermittent TBS (iTBS) and continuous TBS (cTBS) influences TBS-induced aftereffects. Ten healthy subjects underwent iTBS and cTBS. To evaluate the TBS-induced aftereffects on M1 excitability, single TMS pulses were given over the FDI motor area before (T0) and 5 (T1), 15 (T2), and 30 min (T3) after TBS. To find out whether finger movements influenced the TBS-induced aftereffects, we tested motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) size by single TMS pulses at T0, immediately after movements, and at T1-T3. We also measured the kinematic variables mean amplitude and mean peak velocity of the movements. When no phasic voluntary movements preceded TBS, iTBS elicited facilitatory and cTBS elicited inhibitory aftereffects on MEP size. Conversely, movements performed before TBS elicited significant changes in the direction of the TBS-induced aftereffects. iTBS produced inhibitory instead of facilitatory aftereffects and cTBS produced facilitatory instead of inhibitory aftereffects. Finger movements alone had no effects on MEPs size tested with single-pulse TMS. Peripheral electrical stimulation had no effect on iTBS-induced aftereffects. Repeated phasic finger movements interfere with TBS-induced aftereffects probably by modulating mechanisms of brain metaplasticity.
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