To investigate whether hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle affect corticospinal excitability, intracortical inhibition (ICI) or facilitation (ICF) in primary motor cortex, and also whether the hormonal fluctuations have any effect on manual dexterity in neurologically intact women.
Materials and methods
Twenty volunteers (10 Female, 10 Male) were included in this study. The levels of progesterone and estradiol were measured from saliva during the women's menstrual follicular, ovulation and mid-luteal phases. Motor evoked potentials were recorded from the right first dorsal interosseous muscle. Single and paired-pulse Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) were delivered in a block of 20 stimuli. With paired-pulse technique, 3ms and 10ms inter-stimulus intervals were used to assess ICI and ICF, respectively. The Grooved Pegboard Test (GPT) was completed in each session before the TMS assessments. Male participants were tested at similar time intervals as female participants.
Mixed design ANOVA revealed that GPT score in female participants was significantly lower at the mid-luteal phase compared to the ovulation phase (p = 0.017). However, it was not correlated with progesterone or estrogen fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. The results also showed that the effect of phase, sex and the interaction of phase by sex for resting motor threshold, ICI or ICF were not significant (p > 0.05).
Manual dexterity performance fluctuates during the menstrual cycle in neurologically intact women, which might be due to the balance of the neuromodulatory effects of P4 and E2 in the motor cortex during different phases.