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The effects of inhibitory TMS over M1 on implicit learning and its neural correlates

Mr Angad Uppal, Behavioral Neurology Unit

Implicit (unconscious) and explicit (conscious) learning are considered to be separate learning systems mediated by different brain networks. Explicit learning is associated with the medial temporal lobes (MTL).  In contrast, implicit motor sequence learning, which can be studied using the serial reaction time task (SRTT), is associated with the basal ganglia (BG) and their cortical connections.  A particular inhibitory form of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) known as continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) can be used to temporarily ‘turn down’ cortical regions to investigate their function during cognitive processes like implicit learning.  In future, we plan to use cTBS to investigate the role of the primary motor cortex (M1) during implicit learning and to explore the neural networks involved in impaired learning after cTBS over M1.  The aim of the present study is to conduct a preliminary investigation of the effects of sham cTBS over M1 on implicit motor sequence learning and to explore the neural networks involved.  8 healthy volunteers completed the SRTT following sham cTBS and whilst being scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).  We predict the results of our study will show that following sham cTBS, participants will not show impaired implicit motor sequence learning, and that sham cTBS will have no effect on subsequent learning related brain activation.  If confirmed this finding will confirm that our sham cTBS procedure is appropriate for our future study looking at the effects of real inhibitory cTBS on learning.

Last Modified December 14, 2012