Plasticity of cortical inhibition in dystonia is impaired after motor learning and paired-associative stimulation

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Abstract

Artificial induction of plasticity by paired associative stimulation (PAS) in healthy volunteers (HV) demonstrates Hebbian-like plasticity in selected inhibitory networks as well as excitatory networks. In a group of 17 patients with focal hand dystonia and a group of 19 HV, we evaluated how PAS and the learning of a simple motor task influence the circuits supporting long-interval intracortical inhibition (LICI, reflecting activity of GABAB interneurons) and long-latency afferent inhibition (LAI, reflecting activity of somatosensory inputs to the motor cortex). In HV, PAS and motor learning induced long-term potentiation (LTP)-like plasticity of excitatory networks and a lasting decrease of LAI and LICI in the motor representation of the targeted or trained muscle. The better the motor performance, the larger was the decrease of LAI. Although motor performance in the patient group was similar to that of the control group, LAI did not decrease during the motor learning as it did in the control group. In contrast, LICI was normally modulated. In patients the results after PAS did not match those obtained after motor learning: LAI was paradoxically increased and LICI did not exhibit any change. In the normal situation, decreased excitability in inhibitory circuits after induction of LTP-like plasticity may help to shape the cortical maps according to the new sensorimotor task. In patients, the abnormal or absent modulation of afferent and intracortical long-interval inhibition might indicate maladaptive plasticity that possibly contributes to the difficulty that they have to learn a new sensorimotor task.

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