Task-relevant selective modulation of somatosensory afferent paths from the lower limb
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Leg movement attenuates initial somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPS) from both cutaneous and muscle afferent origin. To date, as different sensory inputs become relevant for task performance, selective facilitation from such movement-related gating influences has not been shown. We hypothesized that initial SEP amplitudes from cutaneous (sural nerve, SN) and muscle afferent (tibial nerve, TN) sources are dependent on the relevance of the specific afferent information to task performance. SEPs were obtained at rest and during three movement conditions. In each movement condition, the left foot was passively moved episodically and additional cutaneous 'codes' of sensory information were applied to the dorsum of the left foot. Subjects were instructed to: simply relax (passive), or to make a response following the cessation of movement, dependent either on the cutaneous code (cutaneous task), or the passive movement trajectory of the left foot (position task). Passive movement, with no required subsequent response, attenuated initial TN and SN SEPs to approximately 40% of that at rest (p < 0.05). Versus passive movement, when cutaneous inputs provided the relevant cue for the task, mean SN SEPs significantly increased (p < 0.05), and when the proprioceptive inputs provided the relevant cue for the task, mean TN SEPs significantly increased (p < 0.05). We conclude that specific relevancy of sensory information selectively facilitates somatosensory paths from movement-related attenuation.
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