Effects of motor preparation and spatial attention on corticospinal excitability in a delayed-response paradigm.
Mars RB., Bestmann S., Rothwell JC., Haggard P.
The preparation of motor responses during the delay period of an instructed delay task is associated with sustained neural firing in the primate premotor cortex. It remains unclear how and when such preparation-related premotor activity influences the motor output system. In this study, we tested modulation of corticospinal excitability using single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) during a delayed-response task. At the beginning of the delay interval participants were either provided with no information, spatial attentional information concerning location but not identity of an upcoming imperative stimulus, or information regarding the upcoming response. Behavioral data indicate that participants used all information available to them. Only when information concerning the upcoming response was provided did corticospinal excitability show differential modulation for the effector muscle compared to other task-unrelated muscles. We conclude that modulation of corticospinal excitability reflects specific response preparation, rather than non-specific event preparation.