This study was designed to investigate the sites of potential specific modulations in the neural control of lengthening and subsequent isometric maximal voluntary contractions (MVCs) versus purely isometric MVCs of the plantar flexor muscles, when there is enhanced torque during and following stretch. Ankle joint torque during maximum voluntary plantar flexion was measured by a dynamometer when subjects (n = 10) lay prone on a bench with the right ankle tightly strapped to a foot-plate. Neural control was analysed by comparing soleus motor responses to electrical nerve stimulation (M-wave, V-wave), electrical stimulation of the cervicomedullary junction (CMEP) and transcranial magnetic stimulation of the motor cortex (MEP). Enhanced torque of 17±8% and 9±8% was found during and 2.5-3 s after lengthening MVCs, respectively. Cortical and spinal responsiveness was similar to that in isometric conditions during the lengthening MVCs, as shown by unchanged MEPs, CMEPs and V-waves, suggesting that the major voluntary motor pathways are not subject to substantial inhibition. Following the lengthening MVCs, enhanced torque was accompanied by larger MEPs (p≤0.05) and a trend to greater V-waves (p≤0.1). In combination with stable CMEPs, increased MEPs suggest an increase in cortical excitability, and enlarged V-waves indicate greater motoneuronal output or increased stretch reflex excitability. The new results illustrate that neuromotor pathways are altered after lengthening MVCs suggesting that the underlying mechanisms of the enhanced torque are not purely mechanical in nature. © 2012 Hahn et al.
Hahn, D., Hoffman, B. W., Carroll, T. J., & Cresswell, A. G. (2012). Cortical and Spinal Excitability during and after Lengthening Contractions of the Human Plantar Flexor Muscles Performed with Maximal Voluntary Effort. PLoS ONE, 7(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0049907