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Greenhouse I, King M, Noah S, Maddock RJ, Ivry RB (2017) Individual differences in resting corticospinal excitability are correlated with reaction time and gaba content in motor cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 37(10):2686-2696    
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This study brings together physiological, behavioral, and neurochemical evidence to examine variability in the excitability of the human motor system. Previous work has focused on state-based factors (e.g., preparedness, uncertainty), with little attention given to the influence of inherent stable characteristics. Here, we examined how the excitability of the motor system relates to reaction time and the regional content of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. Importantly, motor pathway excitability and GABA concentrations were measured at rest, outside a task context, providing assays of intrinsic properties of the individuals. Individuals with more excitable motor pathways had faster reaction times and, paradoxically, higher concentrations of GABA. We propose that greater GABA capacity in the motor cortex counteracts an intrinsically more excitable motor system
Abstract
Individuals differ in the intrinsic excitability of their corticospinal pathways and, perhaps more generally, their entire nervous system. At present, we have little understanding of the mechanisms underlying these differences and how variation in intrinsic excitability relates to behavior. Here, we examined the relationship between individual differences in intrinsic corticospinal excitability, local cortical GABA levels, and reaction time (RT) in a group of 20 healthy human adults. We measured corticospinal excitability at rest with transcranial magnetic stimulation, local concentrations of basal GABA with magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and RT with a behavioral task. All measurements were repeated in two separate sessions, and tests of reliability confirmed the presence of stable individual differences. There was a negative correlation between corticospinal excitability and RT, such that larger motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) measured at rest were associated with faster RTs. Interestingly, larger MEPs were associated with higher levels of GABA in M1, but not in three other cortical regions. Together, these results suggest that individuals with more excitable corticospinal pathways are faster to initiate planned responses and have higher levels of GABA within M1, possibly to compensate for a more excitable motor system