Cortical representations expand during skilled motor learning. We studied a unique model of motor learning with cellular phone texting, where the thumbs are used exclusively to interact with the device and the prominence of use can be seen where 3200 text messages are exchanged a month in the 18–24 age demographic. The purpose of the present study was to examine the motor cortex representation and input–output (IO) recruitment curves of the abductor pollicis brevis (APB) muscle of the thumb and the ADM muscle with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), relative to individuals’ texting abilities and short-term texting practice. Eighteen individuals performed a functional texting task (FTT) where we scored their texting speed and accuracy. TMS was then used to examine the cortical volumes and areas of activity in the two muscles and IO curves were constructed to measure excitability. Subjects also performed a 10-min practice texting task, after which we repeated the cortical measures. There were no associations between the cortical measures and the FTT scores before practice. However, after practice the APB cortical map expanded and excitability increased, whereas the ADM map constricted. The increase in the active cortical areas in APB correlated with the improvement in the FTT score. Based on the homogenous group of subjects that were already good at texting, we conclude that the cortical representations and excitability for the thumb muscle were already enlarged and more receptive to changes with short-term practice, as noted by the increase in FTT performance after 10-min of practice.
Cortical representations; Text messages; Transcranial magnetic stimulation
Neuroscience and Neurobiology
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Cortical Representation and Excitability Increases for a Thenar Muscle Mediate Improvement in Short-Term Cellular Phone Text Messaging Ability.
Brain Sciences, 11(3),