TMS-assisted neurophysiological profiling of the dopamine receptor agonist cabergoline in human motor cortex

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Dopamine plays a broad role in motor control and practice-dependent plasticity. Here we tested, in eight healthy subjects, the effects of the dopamine receptor agonist cabergoline on motor cortical excitability because the state of motor cortex can strongly influence practice-dependent plasticity. Cabergoline enhances practice-dependent plasticity but the mechanisms are unknown. We used transcranial magnetic stimulation for testing of motor cortical excitability. A single dose of 2 mg of cabergoline increased short-interval intracortical inhibition, a measure of excitability of GABA-dependent inhibitory neural circuits, and decreased various excitatory measures (motor evoked potential amplitude and short-interval intracortical facilitation). Other measures of motor cortical (motor threshold, cortical silent period duration), spinal (peripheral silent period duration, F-wave) and neuromuscular excitability (maximum M-wave) remained unchanged. This shift in the balance from excitation to inhibition may assist, by improving the ‘signal-to-noise ratio' in motor cortex, in the positive modulating effect of cabergoline on practice-dependent plasticity.

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