Abstract

Recent neuroimaging studies have revealed that tactile perceptual learning can lead to substantial reorganizational changes of the brain. We report here for the first time that combining high-frequency (15 Hz) repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) over the primary somatosensory cortex (SI) with tactile discrimination training is capable of facilitating operant perceptual learning. Most notably, increasing the excitability of SI by 15-Hz rTMS improved perceptual learning in spatial, but not in temporal, discrimination tasks. These findings give causal support to recent correlative data obtained by functional magnetic resonance imaging studies indicating a differential role of SI in spatial and temporal discrimination learning. The introduced combination of rTMS and tactile discrimination training may provide new therapeutical potentials in facilitating neuropsychological rehabilitation of functional deficits after lesions of the somatosensory cortex.

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