Journal article

The aging motor system as a model for plastic changes of GABA-mediated intracortical inhibition and their behavioral relevance

Since GABAA-mediated intracortical inhibition has been shown to underlie plastic changes throughout the lifespan from development to aging, here, the aging motor system was used as a model to analyze the interdependence of plastic alterations within the inhibitory motorcortical network and level of behavioral performance. Double-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (dpTMS) was used to examine inhibition by means of short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) of the contralateral primary motor cortex in a sample of 64 healthy right-handed human subjects covering a wide range of the adult lifespan (age range 20-88 years, mean 47.6 ± 20.7, 34 female). SICI was evaluated during resting state and in an event-related condition during movement preparation in a visually triggered simple reaction time task. In a subgroup (N = 23), manual motor performance was tested with tasks of graded dexterous demand. Weak resting-state inhibition was associated with an overall lower manual motor performance. Better event-related modulation of inhibition correlated with better performance in more demanding tasks, in which fast alternating activation of cortical representations are necessary. Declining resting-state inhibition was associated with weakened event-related modulation of inhibition. Therefore, reduced resting-state inhibition might lead to a subsequent loss of modulatory capacity, possibly reflecting malfunctioning precision in GABAAergic neurotransmission; the consequence is an inevitable decline in motor function.

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