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Effects of Sensorimotor Rhythm Modulation on the Human Flexor Carpi Radialis H-Reflex.

Journal Article
Thompson AK, Carruth H, Haywood R, Hill NJ, Sarnacki WA, McCane LM, Wolpaw JR5, McFarland DJ.
Year Published: 
Front Neurosci. 2018 Jul 25;12:505. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00505. eCollection 2018.
PMID: 30090056 | PMCID: PMC6068279 | DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2018.00505
Abstract on PubMed


People can learn over training sessions to increase or decrease sensorimotor rhythms (SMRs) in the electroencephalogram (EEG). Activity-dependent brain plasticity is thought to guide spinal plasticity during motor skill learning; thus, SMR training may affect spinal reflexes and thereby influence motor control. To test this hypothesis, we investigated the effects of learned mu (8-13 Hz) SMR modulation on the flexor carpi radialis (FCR) H-reflex in 6 subjects with no known neurological conditions and 2 subjects with chronic incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI). All subjects had learned and practiced over more than 10 < 30-min training sessions to increase (SMR-up trials) and decrease (SMR-down trials) mu-rhythm amplitude over the hand/arm area of left sensorimotor cortex with ≥80% accuracy. Right FCR H-reflexes were elicited at random times during SMR-up and SMR-down trials, and in between trials. SMR modulation affected H-reflex size. In all the neurologically normal subjects, the H-reflex was significantly larger [116% ± 6 (mean ± SE)] during SMR-up trials than between trials, and significantly smaller (92% ± 1) during SMR-down trials than between trials (p < 0.05 for both, paired t-test). One subject with SCI showed similar H-reflex size dependence (high for SMR-up trials, low for SMR-down trials): the other subject with SCI showed no dependence. These results support the hypothesis that SMR modulation has predictable effects on spinal reflex excitability in people who are neurologically normal; they also suggest that it might be used to enhance therapies that seek to improve functional recovery in some individuals with SCI or other CNS disorders.