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Motor skill learning-induced functional plasticity in the primary somatosensory cortex: A comparison between young and older adults

MPS-Authors

Predel,  Claudia
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Kaminski,  Elisabeth
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Institute of General Kinesiology and Athletics Training, University of Leipzig, Germany;

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Hoff,  Maike
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Villringer,  Arno
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany;

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Ragert,  Patrick
Department Neurology, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;
Institute of General Kinesiology and Athletics Training, University of Leipzig, Germany;

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Predel_2020.pdf
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Citation

Predel, C., Kaminski, E., Hoff, M., Carius, D., Villringer, A., & Ragert, P. (2020). Motor skill learning-induced functional plasticity in the primary somatosensory cortex: A comparison between young and older adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 12: 596438. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2020.596438.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-DB7F-5
Abstract
While in young adults (YAs) the underlying neural mechanisms of motor learning are well-studied, studies on the involvement of the somatosensory system during motor skill learning in older adults (OAs) remain sparse. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to investigate motor learning-induced neuroplasticity in the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) in YAs and OAs. Somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) were used to quantify somatosensory activation prior and immediately after motor skill learning in 20 right-handed healthy YAs (age range: 19–35 years) and OAs (age range: 57–76 years). Participants underwent a single session of a 30-min co-contraction task of the abductor pollicis brevis (APB) and deltoid muscle. To assess the effect of motor learning, muscle onset asynchrony (MOA) between the onsets of the contractions of both muscles was measured using electromyography monitoring. In both groups, MOA shortened significantly during motor learning, with YAs showing bigger reductions. No changes were found in SEP amplitudes after motor learning in both groups. However, a correlation analysis revealed an association between baseline SEP amplitudes of the N20/P25 and N30 SEP component and the motor learning slope in YAs such that higher amplitudes are related to higher learning. Hence, the present findings suggest that SEP amplitudes might serve as a predictor of individual motor learning success, at least in YAs. Additionally, our results suggest that OAs are still capable of learning complex motor tasks, showing the importance of motor training in higher age to remain an active part of our society as a prevention for care dependency.