Long-latency afferent inhibition (LAI) is the inhibition of the transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) motor-evoked potentials (MEP) by the sensory afferent volley following electrical stimulation of a peripheral nerve. It is unknown how the activation of sensory afferent fibers relates to the magnitude of LAI. This study investigated the relationship between LAI and the sensory nerve action potentials (SNAP) from the median nerve (MN) and the digital nerves (DN) of the second digit. LAI was obtained by delivering nerve stimulation 200 ms before a TMS pulse delivered over the motor cortex. Experiment 1 assessed the magnitude of LAI following stimulation of the contralateral MN or DN using nerve stimulus intensities relative to the maximum SNAP (SNAPmax) of that nerve and two TMS intensities (0.5- and 1-mV MEP). Results indicate that MN LAI is maximal at ~50% SNAPmax, when presumably all sensory afferents are recruited for TMS of 0.5-mV MEP. For DN, LAI appears at ~50% SNAPmax and does not increase with further recruitment of sensory afferents. Experiment 2 investigated the magnitude of LAI following ipsilateral nerve stimulation at intensities relative to SNAPmax. Results show minimal LAI evoked by ipsilateral MN and no LAI following ipsilateral DN stimulation. Implications for future studies investigating LAI include adjusting nerve stimulation to 50% SNAPmax to obtain maximal LAI. Additionally, MN LAI can be used as a marker for neurological disease or injury by using a nerve stimulation intensity that can evoke a depth of LAI capable of increasing or decreasing.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY This is the first investigation of the relationship between long-latency afferent inhibition (LAI) and the sensory afferent volley. Differences exist between median and digital nerve LAI. For the median nerve, LAI increases until all sensory fibers are presumably recruited. In contrast, digital nerve LAI does not increase with the recruitment of additional sensory fibers but rather is present when a given volume of sensory afferent fibers is recruited (~50% of maximum sensory nerve action potential). This novel data provide practical guidelines and contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms underlying LAI.