Primary motor cortex long-term plasticity in multiple system atrophy


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In humans, intermittent and continuous theta-burst stimulation (iTBS and cTBS) elicit long-term changes in motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) reflecting long-term potentiation (LTP)- and depression (LTD)-like plasticity in the primary motor cortex (M1). In this study, we used TBS to investigate M1 plasticity in patients with MSA. We also assessed whether responses to TBS reflect M1 excitability as tested by short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI), intracortical facilitation (ICF), short-interval intracortical facilitation (SICF), and the input/output curves. We studied 20 patients with MSA and 20 healthy subjects (HS). Patients were clinically evaluated with the Unified Multiple System Atrophy Rating Scale. The left M1 was conditioned with TBS. Twenty MEPs were recorded from the right first dorsal interosseous muscle before TBS and 5, 15, and 30 minutes thereafter. In a subgroup of 10 patients, we also tested MEPs elicited by SICI, ICF, SICF, and input/output curves, before TBS. Between-group analysis of variance showed that at all time points after iTBS MEPs increased, whereas after cTBS they decreased only in HS. In both subgroups tested, patients with predominant parkinsonian and cerebellar features, iTBS and cTBS left MEPs unchanged. MSA patients had reduced SICI, but normal ICF, SICF, and input/output curves. No correlation was found between patients' clinical features and responses to TBS and M1 excitability variables. These findings suggest impaired M1 plasticity in MSA. © 2013 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society