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FMRI And MRS Measures Of Neuroplasticity In The Pharyngeal Motor Cortex

E. Michou, S. Williams, R. Vidyasagar, D. Downey, S. Mistry, R. A. E. Edden, S. Hamdy
Published 2015 · Medicine, Computer Science

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INTRODUCTION Paired associative stimulation (PAS), is a novel non-invasive technique where two neural substrates are employed in a temporally coordinated manner in order to modulate cortico-motor excitability within the motor cortex (M1). In swallowing, combined pharyngeal electrical and transcranial-magnetic-stimulation induced beneficial neurophysiological and behavioural effects in healthy subjects and dysphagic stroke patients. Here, we aimed to investigate the whole-brain changes in neural activation during swallowing using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) following PAS application and in parallel assess associated GABA changes with magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). METHODS Healthy adults (n=11, 38±9years old) were randomised to receive real and sham PAS to the 'stronger' motor cortex pharyngeal representation, on 2 separate visits. Following PAS, event-related fMRI was performed to assess changes in brain activation in response to water and saliva swallowing and during rest. Data were analysed (SPM8) at P<.001. MRS data were acquired using MEGA-PRESS before and after the fMRI acquisitions on both visits and GABA concentrations were measured (AMARES, jMRUI). RESULTS Following real PAS, BOLD signal changes (group analyses) increased at the site of stimulation during water and saliva swallowing, compared to sham PAS. It is also evident that PAS induced significant increases in BOLD signal to contralateral (to stimulation) hemispheric areas that are of importance to the swallowing neural network. Following real PAS, GABA:creatine ratio showed a trend to increase contralateral to PAS. CONCLUSION Targeted PAS applied to the human pharyngeal motor cortex induces local and remote changes in both primary and non-primary areas for water and saliva tasks. There is a possibility that changes of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA, may play a role in the changes in BOLD signal. These findings provide evidence for the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of PAS on the brain swallowing network.
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