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Reorganizing the Intrinsic Functional Architecture of the Human Primary Motor Cortex during Rest with Non-Invasive Cortical Stimulation
Published: Friday, January 27, 2012
Author: Rafael Polanía et al.

by Rafael Polanía, Walter Paulus, Michael A. Nitsche

The primary motor cortex (M1) is the main effector structure implicated in the generation of voluntary movements and is directly involved in motor learning. The intrinsic horizontal neuronal connections of M1 exhibit short-term and long-term plasticity, which is a strong substrate for learning-related map reorganization. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) applied for few minutes over M1 has been shown to induce relatively long-lasting plastic alterations and to modulate motor performance. Here we test the hypothesis that the relatively long-lasting synaptic modification induced by tDCS over M1 results in the alteration of associations among populations of M1 neurons which may be reflected in changes of its functional architecture. fMRI resting-state datasets were acquired immediately before and after 10 minutes of tDCS during rest, with the anode/cathode placed over the left M1. For each functional dataset, grey-matter voxels belonging to Brodmann area 4 (BA4) were labelled and afterwards BA4 voxel-based synchronization matrices were calculated and thresholded to construct undirected graphs. Nodal network parameters which characterize the architecture of functional networks (connectivity degree, clustering coefficient and characteristic path-length) were computed, transformed to volume maps and compared before and after stimulation. At the dorsolateral-BA4 region cathodal tDCS boosted local connectedness, while anodal-tDCS enhanced long distance functional communication within M1. Additionally, the more efficient the functional architecture of M1 was at baseline, the more efficient the tDCS-induced functional modulations were. In summary, we show here that it is possible to non-invasively reorganize the intrinsic functional architecture of M1, and to image such alterations.
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