Modulation of internal model formation during force field-induced motor learning by anodal transcranial direct current stimulation of primary motor cortex

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Hunter, Timothy ; Sacco, Paul ; Nitsche, Michael A. ; Turner, Duncan L. (2009)

Human subjects can quickly adapt and maintain performance of arm reaching when experiencing novel physical environments such as robot-induced velocity-dependent forcefields.Using anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) this study showed that the primary motor cortex may play a role in motor adaptation of this sort. Subjects performed arm reaching movement trials in three phases: in a null force field (baseline), in a velocity-dependent force field (adaptation; 25 N sm−1) and once again in a null force field (de-adaptation). Active or sham tDCS was directed to the motor cortex representation of biceps brachii muscle during the adaptation phase of the motor learning protocol. During the adaptation phase, the global error in arm reaching (summed error from an ideal trajectory) was similar in both tDCS conditions. However, active tDCS induced a significantly greater global reaching (overshoot) error during the early stage of de-adaptation compared to the sham tDCS condition. The overshoot error may be representative of the development of a greater predictivemovement to overcome the expected imposed force. An estimate of the predictive, initial movement trajectory (signed error in the first 150 ms of movement) was significantly augmented during the adaptation phase with active tDCS compared to sham tDCS. Furthermore, this increase was linearly related to the change of the overshoot summed error in the de-adaptation process. Together the results suggest that anodal tDCS augments the development of an internal model of the novel adapted movement and suggests that the primary motor cortex is involved in adaptation of reaching movements of healthy human subjects.
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