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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2005 Dec;37(12):2120-5.

Effects of prolonged vibration on motor unit activity and motor performance.

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  • 1Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0354, USA. shinohara@colorado.edu


Excitatory input to the alpha motor neuron pool from Ia afferents is enhanced by brief vibration, yet is depressed when vibration is applied for prolonged periods. The purpose of this article is to synthesize recent findings from several studies on the effects of prolonged vibration on motor unit activity and motor performance during maximal and submaximal contractions in humans. Prolonged vibration does not alter voluntary drive during maximal contractions, but it does reduce Ia afferent input to alpha motor neuron pools and discharge rate of motor units in the vibrated muscles, leading to a reduction in maximal voluntary contraction force. Alterations in the activity of the motor unit pool may be variable across synergistic muscles due to potential neural connections between synergistic muscles. Prolonged vibration reduces the force fluctuations during submaximal steady contractions, presumably due to a depression of group Ia feedback from leg muscles. When prolonged vibration evokes a tonic vibration reflex in a hand muscle, the mean discharge rate of motor units during a submaximal force-matching contraction increases, leading to an increase in the associated force fluctuations. In summary, prolonged vibration modulates Ia feedback and motor unit activity, which leads to reduced peak force during maximal contractions and altered force fluctuations during submaximal contractions.

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