Interventional paired associative stimulation (IPAS) to the contralateral peripheral nerve and cerebral cortex can enhance the primary motor cortex (M1) excitability with two synchronously arriving inputs. This study investigated whether dopamine contributed to the associative long-term potentiation-like effect in the M1 in Parkinson's disease (PD) patients. Eighteen right-handed PD patients and 11 right-handed age-matched healthy volunteers were studied. All patients were studied after 12 hours off medication with levodopa replacement (PD-off). Ten patients were also evaluated after medication (PD-on). The WAS comprised a single electric stimulus to the right median nerve at the wrist and subsequent transcranial magnetic stimulation of the left M1 with an interstimulus interval of 25 milliseconds (240 paired stimuli every 5 seconds for 20 minutes). The motor-evoked potential amplitude in the right abductor pollicis brevis muscle was increased by IPAS in healthy volunteers, but not in PD patients. WAS did not affect the motor-evoked potential amplitude in the left abductor pollicis brevis. The ratio of the motor-evoked potential amplitude before and after WAS in PD-off patients increased after dopamine replacement. Thus, dopamine might modulate cortical plasticity in the human M1, which could be related to higher order motor control, including motor learning.
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