Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Changes in the perceived size of a body part using magnifying lenses influence tactile perception and pain. We investigated whether the visual magnification of one's hand also influences the motor system, as indexed by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)-induced motor evoked potentials (MEPs). In Experiment 1, MEPs were measured while participants gazed at their hand with and without magnification of the hand. MEPs were significantly larger when participants gazed at a magnified image of their hand. In Experiment 2, we demonstrated that this effect is specific to the hand that is visually magnified. TMS of the left motor cortex did not induce an increase of MEPs when participants looked at their magnified left hand. Experiment 3 was performed to determine if magnification altered the topography of the cortical representation of the hand. To that end, a 3 × 5 grid centered on the cortical hot spot (cortical location at which a motor threshold is obtained with the lowest level of stimulation) was overlaid on the participant's MRI image, and all 15 sites in the grid were stimulated with and without magnification of the hand. We confirmed the increase in the MEPs at the hot spot with magnification and demonstrated that MEPs significantly increased with magnification at sites up to 16.5 mm from the cortical hot spot. In Experiment 4, we used paired-pulse TMS to measure short-interval intracortical inhibition and intracortical facilitation. Magnification was associated with an increase in short-interval intracortical inhibition. These experiments demonstrate that the visual magnification of one's hand induces changes in motor cortex excitability and generates a rapid remapping of the cortical representation of the hand that may, at least in part, be mediated by changes in short-interval intracortical inhibition.