Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 177, Issue 2, pp 266–274 | Cite as

Progressive suppression of intracortical inhibition during graded isometric contraction of a hand muscle is not influenced by hand preference

  • Maryam Zoghi
  • Michael A. NordstromEmail author
Research Article


GABAergic intracortical inhibition (ICI) in human motor cortex (M1) assists fractionated activation of muscles, and it has been suggested that hemispheric differences in ICI may contribute to hand preference. Previous studies of this issue have all been conducted at rest, with conflicting results. Testing during voluntary activation may reveal functionally relevant differences. In normal subjects, we assessed (1) operation of ICI circuits during selective activation of an intrinsic hand muscle at different forces, and (2) whether this differs between right and left hemispheres. Surface EMG was recorded bilaterally from abductor pollicis brevis (APB), first dorsal interosseous (FDI) and abductor digiti minimi (ADM) muscles in eleven right-handed subjects. A circular coil applied paired transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) with posteriorly directed current in the brain. Conditioning intensity was 0.8 × active threshold and interstimulus interval was 3 ms. TMS was applied to right or left M1 while subjects were at rest or performing isometric thumb abduction at different forces (0.5, 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 N) with the contralateral hand. Conditioning TMS was less effective at suppressing the muscle evoked potential in APB during 2–10 N thumb abduction (P < 0.0001) versus rest, but not with lower target forces (0.5, 1 N). Conditioning TMS was less effective for FDI and ADM only during 10 N thumb abduction. We conclude that differential modulation of ICI in M1 during selective muscle activation is a function of target isometric force level. At low forces (<5% MVC), ICI is not modulated for the corticospinal neurons controlling the active or inactive muscles. There is a progressive reduction of ICI effects on corticospinal neurons at higher forces, which is largely restricted to corticospinal neurons controlling the muscle targeted for activation over the range of forces tested (up to ∼25% MVC). The pattern of ICI modulation with selective voluntary muscle contraction was similar in left and right hemispheres during this relatively simple static task. If hemispheric differences in operation of M1 ICI circuits contribute to hand preference, a more challenging finger movement protocol may be needed to demonstrate this asymmetry.


Motor cortex Transcranial magnetic stimulation Finger Force GABA Handedness 



The work described herein forms part of the PhD studies of M. Zoghi, who was supported by a scholarship from The University of Adelaide. This project was funded by a grant (157975) from the NHMRC of Australia.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Discipline of Physiology and Research Centre for Human Movement Control, School of Molecular and Biomedical ScienceThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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