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Brain Changes Associated With Learning a Motor Task

This study has been completed.
Information provided by:
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC) Identifier:
First received: January 22, 2004
Last updated: January 24, 2017
Last verified: January 14, 2009

This study will determine: 1) whether learning a task with the dominant hand is accompanied by changes in the area of the brain that controls hand movement, and 2) how the brain is able to make these changes. Previous studies have shown that practicing a motor task can change brain excitability, but it is not known how well brain excitabilities are changed during motor learning. This study will measure changes in activity of the part of the brain that controls hand movement before, during, and after exercising the hand on a response pad.

Healthy normal volunteers between 18 and 40 years of age may be eligible for this study. Candidates who have not been evaluated at NIH within the past year will be screened with a brief interview about their current state of health and clinical and neurological examinations. Participants will undergo the following procedures:

Learning a finger movement/reaction time task

For this procedure, participants sit in front of a computer monitor with the index, middle, ring, and little fingers placed flat on four corresponding buttons of a response pad. They are asked to press one of the four buttons as fast as they can in response to an asterisk displayed on the monitor. The position of the asterisk indicates which button to push. Subjects perform nine sets of 120-button pushes with a 15-minute rest between each set. During the rest period, subjects undergo transcranial magnetic stimulation (described below), which causes twitches in the hand muscles. The electrical activity corresponding to the twitches is recorded by attaching electrodes (small metal disks) to the skin over the hand muscles.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation

For this test, an insulated wire coil is held over the scalp. A brief electrical current passes through the coil, creating a magnetic pulse that electrically stimulates the brain. The subject hears a click and may feel a pulling sensation on the scalp under the coil. The stimulation may also cause twitching in the muscles of the face, arm, or leg. During the stimulation, the subject may be asked to tense certain muscles slightly or perform other simple actions.


Study Type: Observational
Official Title: Changes in Intracortical Inhibitory Processes Are Associated With the Development of Implicit Learning of a Motor Task

Further study details as provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):

Estimated Enrollment: 72
Study Start Date: January 22, 2004
Estimated Study Completion Date: January 14, 2009
  Show Detailed Description


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 40 Years   (Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Normal volunteers (aged 18 to 40 years) who are willing to participate and who have not participated yet in a protocol using a serial reaction time task (SRRT) and who are not or were not a piano player.


Subjects with current use or history of alcohol or drug abuse, psychiatric disorder requiring hospitalization or prolonged treatment, head injury with loss of consciousness, epilepsy, and neurological disease. Subjects receiving drugs acting primarily on the central nervous system.

The following exclusion criteria are due to the use of trans cranial magnetic stimulation:

Subjects with cardiac pacemakers, intracardiac lines, implanted medication pumps.

Subjects with eye, blood vessel, cochlear, or eye implants, subjects with increased intracranial pressure as evaluated by clinical means, subjects with metal in the cranium except in the mouth, subjects with dental braces, metal fragments from occupational exposure or surgical clips in or near the brain.

Since this protocol utilizes paired pulse stimulation, there is no reason to exclude pregnant women. However, women in the last trimester of pregnancy will not be studied because they will likely be uncomfortable for three hours training.

  Contacts and Locations
Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the Contacts provided below. For general information, see Learn About Clinical Studies.

Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00076466

United States, Maryland
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, 9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
  More Information

Publications: Identifier: NCT00076466     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 040103
Study First Received: January 22, 2004
Last Updated: January 24, 2017

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Brain Excitability
Reaction Time
Motor Evoked Potential
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Healthy Volunteer
HV processed this record on April 21, 2017