Heat-evoked experimental pain induces long-term potentiation-like plasticity in human primary motor cortex.Cereb Cortex. 2013 Aug; 23(8):1942-51.CC
We designed a new paired associative stimulation (PAS) protocol that combines experimental pain evoked by laser stimuli and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) (Laser-PAS) to primary motor cortex (M1). We tested in healthy subjects whether Laser-PAS elicits cortical plasticity as reflected by long-term changes in motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) (after-effects). In separate experiments, we examined numerous variables including changes induced by varying the interstimulus intervals (ISIs) and Laser-PAS-induced changes in target and non-target muscle MEPs. We measured MEPs after repetitive laser or TMS (rTMS) pulses, and compared magnetic- and electric (TES)-induced MEPs. We tested MEPs after applying Laser-PAS with laser pulses ipsilaterally to M1. Finally, we studied subjects receiving an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist (memantine) or placebo (α-lipoic acid). During Laser-PAS at the 50 ms ISI MEPs decreased, thereafter they increased for 60 min; other ISIs induced no after-effects. The after-effects remained restricted to the target muscle. Repetitive laser pulses and rTMS induced no after-effects. After Laser-PAS, TMS-induced MEPs increased, whereas TES-induced MEPs did not. Laser-PAS with laser pulses ipsilaterally to M1 left MEPs unchanged. Memantine, but not α-lipoic acid, abolished the after-effects. In conclusion, Laser-PAS elicits NMDA-dependent cortical plasticity and provides new insights into human pain-motor integration.