AIM: To compare neurophysiological parameters of central nervous system excitability in healthy children/adolescents with those of healthy adults. METHOD: Two experimental protocols were used in 19 healthy children/adolescents (10 males and 9 females, mean age 9y 11mo [SD 2y 9mo], range 5-15y) and 19 healthy adults (8 males and 11 females, mean age 36y 6mo [SD 7y 9mo], range 27-51y). First, we administered repetitive trains of innocuous electrical stimulation of the median nerve and analysed habituation (progressive attenuation) of the cervical and cortical responses. Second, we administered several blocks of two closely timed electrical innocuous stimuli of the median nerve (with interstimulus intervals set at 5, 10, and 20ms in each block) and analysed the recovery index (the percentage of the response to the second stimulus with respect to that to the first). RESULTS: Clear-cut neurophysiological signs of cortical hyper-excitability were found in children/adolescents but not in adults. In contrast with the adults, the children/adolescents did not attenuate cortical responses to repetitive stimulation, and presented with extremely shortened recovery cycle. At baseline, both groups presented with comparable cortical responses. INTERPRETATION: Healthy children/adolescents present cortical hyper-excitability compared with healthy adults. These findings agree with previous findings that show an overall imbalance of excitatory and inhibitory neuronal and neurochemical mechanisms in favour of excitatory ones, in the healthy developing cerebral cortex.
- recovery cycle