Influence of peripheral afferents on cortical and spinal motoneuron excitability
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The objective of this study was to establish to what extent muscle, cutaneous, and joint afferents alter the excitability of spinal and cortical motor neurons. This question was examined by studying the impact of electrical stimulation of the second and third digits, the median nerve at the wrist, and the recurrent thenar motor branch on the F/H and magneto-electrical cortical motor responses (MEPs) of the thenar muscles. The firing frequencies of single F/H motor unit action potentials were unaltered by the foregoing conditioning peripheral stimuli. MEPs conditioned by motor threshold stimulation of the median nerve at the wrist or the recurrent motor branch were significantly increased in size at conditioning to test intervals of 50 to 80 milliseconds. No significant change in MEP size resulted from conditioning stimulation of the digital nerves. We conclude that muscle afferents were primarily responsible for the increase in MEP size. Conditioning stimuli may allow examiners to assess central motor conduction where it would otherwise be impossible.
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