Primary motor cortex disinhibition during motor skill learning

James P. Coxon, Nicola M. Peat, Winston D. Byblow

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32 Citations (Scopus)


Motor learning requires practice over a period of time and depends on brain plasticity, yet even for relatively simple movements, there are multiple practice strategies that can be used for skill acquisition. We investigated the role of intracortical inhibition in the primary motor cortex (M1) during motor skill learning. Event-related transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was used to assess corticomotor excitability and inhibition thought to involve synaptic and extrasynaptic ?-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Short intracortical inhibition (SICI) was assessed using 1- and 2.5-ms interstimulus intervals (ISIs). Participants learned a novel, sequential pinch-grip task on a computer in either a repetitive or interleaved practice structure. Both practice structures showed equivalent levels of motor performance at the end of acquisition and at retention 1 wk later. There was a novel task-related modulation of 1-ms SICI. Repetitive practice elicited a greater reduction of 1- and 2.5-ms SICI, i.e., disinhibition, between rest and task acquisition, compared with interleaved practice. These novel findings support the use of a repetitive practice structure for motor learning because the associated effects within M1 have relevance for motor rehabilitation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-164
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • motor skill learning
  • repetitive practice
  • intracortical inhibition
  • GABA
  • transcranial magnetic stimulation

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