We investigated the functional changes in short intracortical inhibitory (SICI) circuits to determine whether surround inhibition is altered during a simple finger movement training. Using an electromyographic (EMG) feedback system linked to a computer monitor, participants practiced sustained index finger abduction by 40% maximum voluntary contraction of the first dorsal interosseous (FDI) while decreasing overflow EMG activity of the abductor digiti minimi (ADM) to less than 5% maximum voluntary contraction. Single transcranial magnetic stimuli (TMS) and paired-pulse TMS were applied to the left primary motor cortex to elicit motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) in the right FDI and ADM before/after training. In addition to recording MEPs from both muscles during voluntary FDI contraction, MEPs were recorded during motor imagery. MEPs from the FDI were not altered by training, indicating no functional changes in SICI circuits associated with the FDI field. In contrast, SICI circuits associated with ADM were significantly strengthened by training, as indicated by reduced baseline EMG activity during both actual FDI contraction and motor imagery and by reduced MEPs in response to post-training TMS. We propose that SICI circuits show functional plasticity during motor training and that surround circuit inhibition of nontarget muscle groups increases in proportion to the acquisition of motor skills.
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