Male human motor cortex stimulus-response characteristics are not altered by aging
journal contributionposted on 2011-01-01, 00:00 authored by Ashleigh E Smith, Martin V Sale, Ryan D Higgins, Gary A Wittert, Julia PitcherJulia Pitcher
Evidence suggests that there are aging-related changes in corticospinal stimulus-response curve characteristics in later life. However, there is also limited evidence that these changes may only be evident in postmenopausal women and not in men. This study compared corticospinal stimulus-response curves from a group of young men [19.8 ± 1.6 yr (range 17-23 yr)] and a group of old men [n = 18, aged 64.1 ± 5.0 yr (range 55-73 yr)]. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the contralateral motor cortex was used to evoke motor potentials at a range of stimulus intensities in the first dorsal interosseous muscle of each hand separately. There was no effect of age group or hemisphere (i.e., left vs. right motor cortex) on motor evoked potential (MEP) amplitude or any other stimulus-response characteristic. MEP variability was strongly modulated by resting motor threshold but not by age. M-wave (but not F-wave) amplitude was reduced in old men, but expressing MEP amplitude as a ratio of M-wave amplitude did not reveal any age-related differences in cortically evoked stimulusresponse characteristics. We conclude that male corticospinal stimulus-response characteristics are not altered by advancing age and that previously reported age-related changes in motor cortical excitability assessed with TMS are likely due to changes inherent in the female participants only. Future studies are warranted to fully elucidate the relationship between, and functional significance of, changes in circulating neuroactive sex hormones and motor function in later life.