OBJECTIVES: Skill acquisition after motor training involves synaptic long-term potentiation (LTP) in primary motor cortex (M1). In multiple sclerosis (MS), LTP failure ensuing from neuroinflammation could contribute to worsen clinical recovery. We therefore addressed whether practice-dependent plasticity is altered in MS.
METHODS: Eighteen relapsing-remitting (RR)-MS patients and eighteen healthy controls performed 600 fast abductions of index finger in 30 blocks of 20 movements. Before and after practice, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was delivered over the hot spot of the trained first dorsal interosseous muscle. Movements kinematics, measures of cortical excitability, and the input/output curves of motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were assessed.
RESULTS: Kinematic variables of movement improved with practice in patients and controls to a similar extent, although patients showed lower MEPs amplitude increase after practice. Practice did not change the difference in resting motor threshold values observed between patients and controls, nor did modulate short-interval intracortical inhibition. Clinical/radiological characteristics were not associated to practice-dependent effects.
CONCLUSIONS: Practice-induced reorganization of M1 is altered in non-disabled RR-MS patients, as shown by impaired MEPs modulation after motor learning.
SIGNIFICANCE: These findings suggest that in RR-MS physiological mechanisms of practice-dependent plasticity are altered.