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Chronic tension-type headache is associated with impaired motor learning

Vallence, A.M.ORCID: 0000-0001-9190-6366, Smith, A., Tabor, A., Rolan, P.E. and Ridding, M.C. (2013) Chronic tension-type headache is associated with impaired motor learning. Cephalalgia, 33 (12). pp. 1048-1054.

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Background Supraspinal activity-dependent neuroplasticity may be important in the transition from acute to chronic pain. We examined neuroplasticity in a cortical region not considered to be a primary component of the central pain matrix in chronic tension-type headache (CTTH) patients. We hypothesised that neuroplasticity would be exaggerated in CTTH patients compared to healthy controls, which might explain (in part) the development of chronic pain in these individuals.
Methods Neuroplasticity was examined following a ballistic motor training task in CTTH patients and control subjects (CS). Changes in peak acceleration (motor learning) and motor-evoked potential (MEP) amplitude evoked by single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation were compared.
Results CTTH patients showed significantly less motor learning on the training task than CS (mean acceleration increase 87% CTTH, 204% CS, p < .05), and CS but not CTTH patients showed a significant increased MEP amplitude following training (CS: F = 2.9, p < .05; CTTH: F = 1.6, p > .05).
Conclusions These findings suggest a deficit in use-dependent neuroplasticity within networks responsible for task performance in CTTH patients which might reflect reciprocal influences between primary motor cortex and interconnected pain processing networks. These findings may help explain the positive effects of facilitatory non-invasive brain stimulation targeting motor areas on chronic pain and help elucidate the mechanisms mediating chronic pain.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Sage
Copyright: International Headache Society 2013
Notes: Online April 18 2013
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