AbstractInterhemispheric interactions demonstrate a crucial role for directing bimanual movement control. In humans, a well-established paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation paradigm enables to assess these interactions by means of interhemispheric inhibition (IHI). Previous studies have examined changes in IHI from the active to the resting primary motor cortex during unilateral muscle contractions; however, behavioral relevance of such changes is still inconclusive. In the present study, we evaluated two bimanual tasks, i.e., mirror activity and bimanual anti-phase tapping, to examine behavioral relevance of IHI for bimanual movement control within this behavioral framework. Two age groups (young and older) were evaluated as bimanual movement control demonstrates evident behavioral decline in older adults. Two types of IHI with differential underlying mechanisms were measured; IHI was tested at rest and during a motor task from the active to the resting primary motor cortex. Results demonstrate an association between behavior and short-latency IHI in the young group: larger short-latency IHI correlated with better bimanual movement control (i.e., less mirror activity and better bimanual anti-phase tapping). These results support the view that short-latency IHI represents a neurophysiological marker for the ability to suppress activity of the contralateral side, likely contributing to efficient bimanual movement control. This association was not observed in the older group, suggesting age-related functional changes of IHI. To determine underlying mechanisms of impaired bimanual movement control due to neurological disorders, it is crucial to have an in-depth understanding of age-related mechanisms to disentangle disorder-related mechanisms of impaired bimanual movement control from age-related ones.
AbstractSleep deprivation has been shown to increase pain intensity and decrease pain thresholds in healthy subjects. In chronic pain patients, sleep impairment often worsens the perceived pain intensity. This increased pain perception is the result of altered nociceptive processing. We recently developed a method to quantify and monitor altered nociceptive processing by simultaneous tracking of psychophysical detection thresholds and recording of evoked cortical potentials during intra-epidermal electric stimulation. In this study, we assessed the sensitivity of nociceptive detection thresholds and evoked potentials to altered nociceptive processing after sleep deprivation in an exploratory study with 24 healthy male and 24 healthy female subjects. In each subject, we tracked nociceptive detection thresholds and recorded central evoked potentials in response to 180 single- and 180 double-pulse intra-epidermal electric stimuli. Results showed that the detection thresholds for single- and double-pulse stimuli and the average central evoked potential for single-pulse stimuli were significantly decreased after sleep deprivation. When analyzed separated by sex, these effects were only significant in the male population. Multivariate analysis showed that the decrease of central evoked potential was associated with a decrease of task-related evoked activity. Measurement repetition led to a decrease of the detection threshold to double-pulse stimuli in the mixed and the female population, but did not significantly affect any other outcome measures. These results suggest that simultaneous tracking of psychophysical detection thresholds and evoked potentials is a useful method to observe altered nociceptive processing after sleep deprivation, but is also sensitive to sex differences and measurement repetition.
AbstractVisually induced motion sickness (VIMS) is a common side-effect of exposure to virtual reality (VR). Its unpleasant symptoms may limit the acceptance of VR technologies for training or clinical purposes. Mechanical stimulation of the mastoid and diverting attention to pleasant stimuli-like odors or music have been found to ameliorate VIMS. Chewing gum combines both in an easy-to-administer fashion and should thus be an effective countermeasure against VIMS. Our study investigated whether gustatory-motor stimulation by chewing gum leads to a reduction of VIMS symptoms. 77 subjects were assigned to three experimental groups (control, peppermint gum, and ginger gum) and completed a 15-min virtual helicopter flight, using a VR head-mounted display. Before and after VR exposure, we assessed VIMS with the Simulator Sickness Questionnaire (SSQ), and during the virtual flight once every minute with the Fast Motion Sickness Scale (FMS). Chewing gum (peppermint gum: M = 2.44, SD = 2.67; ginger gum: M = 2.57, SD = 3.30) reduced the peak FMS scores by 2.05 (SE = 0.76) points as compared with the control group (M = 4.56, SD = 3.52), p < 0.01, d = 0.65. Additionally, taste ratings correlated slightly negatively with both the SSQ and the peak FMS scores, suggesting that pleasant taste of the chewing gum is associated with less VIMS. Thus, chewing gum may be useful as an affordable, accepted, and easy-to-access way to mitigate VIMS in numerous applications like education or training. Possible mechanisms behind the effect are discussed.