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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Age and hemispheric differences in transcallosal inhibition between motor cortices: an ispsilateral silent period study

Travis Davidson13 and François Tremblay123*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Human Kinetics, University of Ottawa, Montpetit Hall, 125 University Private, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada

2 School of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Ottawa, Guindon Hall, 451Smyth Rd., Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8M5, Canada

3 Bruyère Research Institute, 75 Bruyère St, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 5C8, Canada

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BMC Neuroscience 2013, 14:62  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-14-62

Published: 25 June 2013



In this study, we investigated age and hemispheric differences in transcallosal inhibition (TCI) in the context of active contraction using the ipsilateral silent period (iSP). We also examined whether age-related changes in TCI would be related to corresponding changes in manual performance with age. Participants consisted of right-handed individuals from two age groups (young adults, n=13; seniors, n=17). The iSP was measured for each hemisphere using suprathreshold TMS pulses delivered over the primary motor cortex ipsilateral to the maximally contracting hand while the homologue muscles of the opposite hand were lightly contracting (~15% of the maximum). Manual performance was assessed bilaterally for both grip strength and fine dexterity.


Our results yielded two main findings. First, TCI measures derived from iSP were strongly influenced by age, whereas differences between hemispheres were only minor. Second, correlation analyses revealed that age-related variations in TCI measures were related to changes in manual performance, so that left-to-right TCI correlated with right hand performance and vice-versa for the opposite hand/hemisphere.


Overall, these results concur with other recent reports indicating that mutual inhibition between motor cortices tends to decline with age. In this respect, our observations are in line with the notion that the balance of normally predominantly inhibitory interactions between motor cortices is shifted toward excitatory processes with age.