Motor cortex plasticity response to acute cardiorespiratory exercise and intermittent theta-burst stimulation is attenuated in premanifest and early Huntington’s disease

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Huntington’s disease (HD) mouse models suggest that cardiovascular exercise may enhance neuroplasticity and delay disease signs, however, the effects of exercise on neuroplasticity in people with HD are unknown. Using a repeated-measures experimental design, we compared the effects of a single bout of high-intensity exercise, moderate-intensity exercise, or rest, on motor cortex synaptic plasticity in 14 HD CAG-expanded participants (9 premanifest and 5 early manifest) and 20 CAG-healthy control participants, using transcranial magnetic stimulation. Measures of cortico-motor excitability, short-interval intracortical inhibition and intracortical facilitation were obtained before and after a 20-min bout of either high-intensity interval exercise, moderate-intensity continuous exercise, or rest, and again after intermittent theta burst stimulation (iTBS). HD participants showed less inhibition at baseline compared to controls. Whereas the control group showed increased excitability and facilitation following high-intensity exercise and iTBS, the HD group showed no differences in neuroplasticity responses following either exercise intensity or rest, with follow-up Bayesian analyses providing consistent evidence that these effects were absent in the HD group. These findings indicate that exercise-induced synaptic plasticity mechanisms in response to acute exercise may be attenuated in HD, and demonstrate the need for future research to further investigate exercise and plasticity mechanisms in people with HD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1104
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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