Cortico-cortical paired associative stimulation (ccPAS) over premotor-motor areas affects local circuitries in the human motor cortex via Hebbian plasticity

Sonia Turrini, Francesca Fiori, Emilio Chiappini, Boris Lucero, Emiliano Santarnecchi, Alessio Avenanti

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) studies have shown that cortico-cortical paired associative stimulation (ccPAS) can strengthen connectivity between the ventral premotor cortex (PMv) and the primary motor cortex (M1) by modulating convergent input over M1 via Hebbian spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP). However, whether ccPAS locally affects M1 activity remains unclear. We tested 60 right-handed young healthy humans in two studies, using a combination of dual coil TMS and ccPAS over the left PMv and M1 to probe and manipulate PMv-to-M1 connectivity, and single- and paired-pulse TMS to assess neural activity within M1. We provide convergent evidence that ccPAS, relying on repeated activations of excitatory PMv-to-M1 connections, acts locally over M1. During ccPAS, motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) induced by paired PMv-M1 stimulation gradually increased. Following ccPAS, the threshold for inducing MEPs of different amplitudes decreased, and the input-output curve (IO) slope increased, highlighting increased M1 corticospinal excitability. Moreover, ccPAS reduced the magnitude of short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI), reflecting suppression of GABA-ergic interneuronal mechanisms within M1, without affecting intracortical facilitation (ICF). These changes were specific to ccPAS Hebbian strengthening of PMv-to-M1 connectivity, as no modulations were observed when reversing the order of the PMv-M1 stimulation during a control ccPAS protocol. These findings expand prior ccPAS research that focused on the malleability of cortico-cortical connectivity at the network-level, and highlight local changes in the area of convergent activation (i.e., M1) during plasticity induction. These findings provide new mechanistic insights into the physiological basis of ccPAS that are relevant for protocol optimization.

Institut für Klinische und Gesundheitspsychologie
Externe Organisation(en)
Università di Bologna, Massachussetts General Hospital, Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, Universidad Católica del Maule
ÖFOS 2012
301407 Neurophysiologie, 301408 Psychophysiologie
ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete
Neurology, Cognitive Neuroscience
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