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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 6797928, 12 pages
Research Article

Promoting Motor Cortical Plasticity with Acute Aerobic Exercise: A Role for Cerebellar Circuits

1Graduate Program in Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z3
2Graduate Program in Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z3

Received 18 October 2015; Revised 26 February 2016; Accepted 13 March 2016

Academic Editor: Henning Budde

Copyright © 2016 Cameron S. Mang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Acute aerobic exercise facilitated long-term potentiation-like plasticity in the human primary motor cortex (M1). Here, we investigated the effect of acute aerobic exercise on cerebellar circuits, and their potential contribution to altered M1 plasticity in healthy individuals (age: years). In Experiment   1, acute aerobic exercise reduced cerebellar inhibition (CBI) (, ), elicited by dual-coil paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation. In Experiment   2, we evaluated the facilitatory effects of aerobic exercise on responses to paired associative stimulation, delivered with a 25 ms (PAS25) or 21 ms (PAS21) interstimulus interval ( per group). Increased M1 excitability evoked by PAS25, but not PAS21, relies on trans-cerebellar sensory pathways. The magnitude of the aerobic exercise effect on PAS response was not significantly different between PAS protocols (interaction effect: ); however, planned comparisons indicated that, relative to a period of rest, acute aerobic exercise enhanced the excitatory response to PAS25 (), but not PAS21 (). Thus, the results of these planned comparisons indirectly provide modest evidence that modulation of cerebellar circuits may contribute to exercise-induced increases in M1 plasticity. The findings have implications for developing aerobic exercise strategies to “prime” M1 plasticity for enhanced motor skill learning in applied settings.