March 3, 2021

Reversal of visual feedback modulates somatosensory plasticity

Reversed visual feedback during unimanual training increases transfer of skills to the opposite untrained hand and modulates plasticity in motor areas of the brain. However, it is unclear if unimanual training with reversed visual feedback also affects somatosensory areas. Here we manipulated visual input during unimanual training using left-right optical reversing spectacles and tested whether unimanual training with reversed vision modulates somatosensory cortical excitability to facilitate motor performance. Thirty participants practiced a unimanual ball-rotation task using the right hand with either left-right reversed vision (incongruent visual and somatosensory feedback) or direct vision (congruent feedback) of the moving hand. We estimated cortical excitability in primary somatosensory cortex (S1) before and after unimanual training by measuring somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs). This was done by electrically stimulating the median nerve in the wrist while participants rested, and recording potentials over both hemispheres using electroencephalography. Performance of the ball-rotation task improved for both the right (trained) and left (untrained) hand after training across both direct and reversed vision conditions. Participants with direct vision of the right hand during training showed SEPs amplitudes increased bilaterally. In contrast, participants in the reversed visual condition showed attenuated SEPs following training. The results suggest that cortical suppression of S1 activity supports skilled motor performance after unimanual training with reversed vision, presumably by sensory gating of afferent signals from the movement. This finding provides insight into the mechanisms by which visual input interacts with the sensorimotor system and induces neuroplastic changes in S1 to support skilled motor performance.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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