BACKGROUND: Cortisol may fulfill all criteria for a neuromodulator. However, it is not known whether it may rapidly influence motor system activity in humans. OBJECTIVE: Circulating cortisol levels were manipulated by administration of a single intravenous dose of hydrocortisone or saline solution, on separate days, to study changes in corticospinal and motor cortical excitability. METHODS: Motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) to single- and paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation from the resting first dorsal interosseous muscle, and cortisol plasma levels were assessed before and after either a bolus of 20 mg of hydrocortisone or saline solution in seven healthy subjects. RESULTS: Mean cortisol plasma level rapidly rose, peaked between 5 and 10 minutes after hydrocortisone injection, to slowly decay afterward. Mean MEP amplitude significantly increased from preinjection levels, and mean standard deviation of MEPs significantly increased between 8-12 minutes postinjection. Short-intracortical inhibition, tested during the same period, was significantly decreased. No significant changes in the above measures were observed after saline solution administration. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that high circulating levels of cortisol rapidly increase corticospinal excitability and reduce gamma aminobutyric acid activity, as measured by short-intracortical inhibition, in humans. These effects, lasting about 10 minutes, were observed within 15 minutes from the pharmacological intervention. They are therefore compatible with a nongenomic mechanism. These findings are important in view of the notion that a decrease in intracortical gamma aminobutyric acid activity appears to be a prerequisite for motor learning and plastic processes in the human motor cortex.
|Titolo:||Cortisol-induced effects on human cortical excitability.|
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