Reversible changes of motor cortical outputs following immobilization of the upper limb

Giampietro Zanette, Michele Tinazzi, Claudio Bonato, Alfonsina Di Summa, Paolo Manganotti, Alberto Polo, Antonio Fiaschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We mapped the cortical representations of the abductor pollicis brevis, flexor carpi radialis, biceps and deltoid muscles in six subjects with unilateral wrist fractures, immediately after the removal of the splint. This was repeated 1 month later in three out of the six subjects. Duration of immobilization was 1 month. Muscle maps were obtained by delivering four focal magnetic pulses for each scalp position (1 cm apart with reference to Cz) over the contralateral hemisphere. Motor evoked potentials (MEPs) were averaged off-line and expressed as a percentage of the motor action potential evoked by supramaximal peripheral nerve stimulation. Volume, area and threshold of the motor maps showed no significant hemispheric differences within each muscle in 10 control subjects. In the first recording session the volume of each immobilized muscle was distinctly higher when compared to that of controls in terms of absolute value and side-to-side ratio. This finding disappeared 1 month later. Moreover, MEP amplitude difference recorded from hand muscle could be reversed during a small tonic voluntary contraction. Immobilization had no significant effect on the threshold for activation of the target muscles and on the area of the motor map. The increase in MEP amplitudes occurred without changes in spinal excitability as tested by the F wave. These findings suggest that immobilization of the upper limb induces a reversible enhancement of the excitability of structures along the corticomotoneuronal pathway. Sustained restriction of volitional movements and reduction in somatic sensory inputs might promote this functional modulation of the motor system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-279
Number of pages11
JournalElectroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology - Electromyography and Motor Control
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1997


  • excitability
  • mapping
  • motor cortex
  • neural plasticity
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Reversible changes of motor cortical outputs following immobilization of the upper limb'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this