Chronic neuropathic pain is known to alter the primary motor cortex (M1) function. Less is known about the normal, physiological effects of experimental neurogenic pain on M1. The objective of this study is to determine how short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) is altered in the M1 representation area of a muscle exposed to experimental pain compared to SICI of another muscle not exposed to pain. The cortical representation areas of the right abductor pollicis brevis (APB) and biceps brachii (BB) muscles of 11 subjects were stimulated with a multi-locus transcranial magnetic stimulation device while the resulting motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) were recorded with electromyography. Single- and paired-pulse TMS was administered in seven conditions, including one with the right hand placed in cold water. The stimulation intensity for the conditioning pulses in the paired-pulse examination was 80% of the resting motor threshold (RMT) of the stimulated site and 120% of RMT for both the test and single pulses. The paired-pulse MEP amplitudes were normalized with the mean amplitude of the single-pulse MEPs of the same condition and muscle. SICI was compared between conditions. After the cold pain, the normalized paired-pulse MEP amplitudes decreased in APB, but not in BB, indicating that SICI was potentially increased only in the cortical area of the muscle subjected to pain. These data suggest that SICI is increased in the M1 representation area of a hand muscle shortly after exposure to pain has ended, which implies that short-lasting pain can alter the inhibitory balance in M1.
- Acute pain
- Motor cortex
- Motor-evoked potential
- Neuropathic pain
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation