Paired associative stimulation (PAS) is an effective non-invasive method to induce human motor plasticity by the repetitive pairing of peripheral nerve stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) at the primary motor cortex (M1) with a specific time interval. Although the repetitive pairing of two types of afferent stimulation might be a biological basis of neural plasticity and memory, other types of paired stimulation of the human brain have rarely been studied. We hypothesized that the repetitive pairing of TMS and interhemispheric cortico-cortical projection or paired bihemispheric stimulation (PBS), in which the right and left M1 were serially stimulated with a time interval of 15 ms, would produce an associative long-term potentiation (LTP)-like effect. In this study, 23 right-handed healthy volunteers were subjected to a 0.1 Hz repetition of 180 pairings of bihemispheric TMS, and physiological and behavioural measures of the motor system were compared before, immediately after, 20 min after and 40 min after PBS intervention. The amplitude of the motor evoked potential (MEP) induced by the left M1 stimulation and its input-output function increased for up to ∼20 min post-PBS. Fine finger movements were also facilitated by PBS. Spinal excitability measured by the H-reflex was insensitive to PBS, suggesting a cortical mechanism. The associative LTP-like effect induced by PBS was timing dependent, occurring only when the interstimulus interval was 5-25 ms. These findings demonstrate that using PBS in PAS can induce motor cortical plasticity, and this approach might be applicable to the rehabilitation of patients with motor disorders.
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