Introduction: Accumulating evidence suggests that motor skill training is associated with structural and functional reorganization of the primary motor cortex. However, previous studies have focussed primarily upon the upper limb, and it is unclear whether comparable reorganization occurs following training of other regions, such as the lower back. Although this holds important implications for rehabilitation, no studies have examined corticomotor adaptations following short-term motor training in the lower back. Method: The aims of this study were to (a) determine whether a short-term lumbopelvic tilt visuomotor task induced reorganization of the corticomotor representations of lower back muscles, (b) quantify the variability of corticomotor responses to motor training, and (c) determine whether any improvements in task performance were correlated with corticomotor reorganization. Participants were allocated randomly to perform a lumbopelvic tilt motor training task (n = 15) or a finger abduction control task involving no lumbopelvic movement (n = 15). Transcranial magnetic stimulation was used to map corticomotor representations of the lumbar erector spinae before, during, and after repeated performance of the allocated task. Results: No relationship between corticomotor reorganization and improved task performance was identified. Substantial variability was observed in terms of corticomotor responses to motor training, with approximately 50% of participants showing no corticomotor reorganization despite significant improvements in task performance. Conclusion: These findings suggest that short-term improvements in lower back visuomotor task performance may be driven by changes in remote subcortical and/or spinal networks rather than adaptations in corticomotor pathways. However, further research using tasks of varying complexities and durations is required to confirm this hypothesis.
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- corticomotor reorganization
- lower back
- motor learning