The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of a cognitive task on motor cortex excitability and inhibition. Transcranial magnetic stimulation of the motor cortex was performed on 20 healthy individuals (18–24 years; 9 females) to measure motor evoked potentials (MEPs) and cortical silent periods at baseline, during, and following a secondary cognitive task. The MEP amplitude increased from 0.50 ± 0.09–0.87 ± 0.50 mV during a secondary cognitive task (p = .04), and returned to baseline (0.48 ± 0.31 mV; p = .90) posttask. The CSP duration also increased from 93.48 ± 28.76–113.6 ± 33.68 ms (p = .001) during the cognitive task, and returned to baseline posttask (89.0 ± 6.9 ms; p = .88). In the presence of a cognitive task, motor cortex excitability and inhibition were both increased relative to baseline. The increase in inhibition may help to explain the motor deficits experienced while performing a secondary cognitive task.
The authors are with the Dept. of Human Physiology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR.