Electrical stimulation of the human common peroneal nerve elicits lasting facilitation of cortical motor-evoked potentials
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Motor-evoked potentials (MEP) in the tibialis anterior (TA) muscle were shown to be facilitated by repetitive electrical stimulation of the common peroneal (CP) nerve at intensities above motor threshold. The TA electromyogram (EMG) and ankle flexion force were recorded in response to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the leg area of the motor cortex to evaluate the excitability of cortico-spinal-muscular pathways. Repetitive stimulation of the CP nerve at 25 Hz for 30 min increased the MEP by 50.3 ± 13.6% (mean ± S.E.) at a TMS intensity that initially gave a half-maximum MEP (MEPh). In contrast the maximum MEP (MEPmax) did not change. Ankle flexion force (103 ± 21.9%) and silent period duration (75.3 ± 12.9%) also increased. These results suggest an increase in corticospinal excitability, rather than total connectivity due to repetitive CP stimulation. Facilitation was evident after as little as 10 min of stimulation and persisted without significant decrement for at least 30 min after stimulation. The long duration of silent period following CP stimulation (99.2 ± 14.8 ms) suggests that this form of stimulation may have effects on the motor cortex. To exclude the possibility that MEPh facilitation was primarily due to sensory fibre activation, we performed several control experiments. Preferentially activating Ia muscle afferents by vibration in the absence of motor activity had no significant effect. Cutaneous afferent activation via stimulation of the superficial peroneal nerve increased the amplitude of responses at MEPmax rather than MEPh. Concurrent tendon vibration and superficial peroneal nerve stimulation failed to facilitate TA MEP responses. In summary, repetitive electrical stimulation of the CP nerve elicits lasting changes in corticospinal excitability, possibly as a result of co-activating motor and sensory fibres.
KeywordsMagnetic stimulation EMG Peripheral nerve Plasticity Silent period
We thank Dr. Doug Weber for his assistance with statistical analysis and Dr. Charles Capaday for his suggestions. This research was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
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