Consideration was given to means of increasing the reliability and muscle specificity of paired associative stimulation (PAS) by utilising the phenomenon of crossed-facilitation. Eight participants completed three separate sessions: isometric flexor contractions of the left wrist at 20% of maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) simultaneously with PAS (20s intervals; 14 min duration) delivered at the right median nerve and left primary motor cortex (MI); isometric contractions at 20% of MVC: and PAS only ( 14 min). Eight further participants completed two sessions of longer duration PAS (28 min): either alone or in conjunction with flexion contractions of the left wrist. Thirty motor potentials (MEPs) were evoked in the right flexor (rFCR) and extensor (rECR) carpi radialis muscles by magnetic stimulation of left M1 Prior to the interventions, immediately post-intervention, and 10 min post-intervention. Both 14 and 28 min of combined PAS and (left wrist flexion) contractions resulted in reliable increases in rFCR MEP amplitude, which were not present in rECR. In the PAS only conditions, 14 min of stimulation gave rise to unreliable increases in MEP amplitudes in rFCR and rECR, whereas 28 min of PAS induced small (unreliable) changes only for rFCR. These results support the conclusion that changes in the excitability of the corticospinal pathway induced by PAS interact with those associated with contraction of the muscles ipsilateral to the site of cortical stimulation. Furthermore, focal contractions applied by the opposite limb increase the extent and muscle specificity of the induced changes in excitability associated with PAS. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
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