The influence of motor cortical stimulus intensity on the relaxation rate of human lower limb muscles
SourceExperimental Brain Research, 228, 2, (2013), pp. 235-242
Article / Letter to editor
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Experimental Brain Research
SubjectDCN MP - Plasticity and memory NCEBP 10: Human Movement & Fatigue
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) allows an in vivo assessment of the rate of muscle relaxation during a voluntary contraction. It is unknown if this method can be applied to lower limb muscles, and the effect of stimulus intensity on relaxation rate has not been investigated in any muscle group. The present study sought to address these unknowns. A secondary aim was to test the sensitivity of the method to a change in muscle length by comparing the relaxation rate of the plantar flexor muscles with the gastrocnemius at short and long lengths. Seven subjects performed 21 maximal voluntary isometric contractions (MVCs) of the dorsiflexors (DF) and plantar flexors with a knee angle of either 90 degrees or 180 degrees (PF90 and PF180, respectively). TMS intensity ranged from 40 to 100% stimulator output in intervals of 10%. Relaxation rates increased with stimulus intensity but were equivalent to maximal output at 50 (DF and PF90) or 60% (PF180). MVC torque was greater, and the rate of relaxation was faster for PF180 compared to PF90. The main findings are that TMS can be used to measure relaxation rates of lower limb muscles, and these rates are robust provided the stimulus intensity is above a critical threshold. The dependency of plantar flexor relaxation rate on the length of the fast-twitch gastrocnemius fibers reinforces published temperature and fatigue data which show that the method is sensitive to the contractile properties of the muscle fibers which are actively contributing to torque production.
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