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Brain Res. 2007 Jan 12;1128(1):91-8. Epub 2006 Nov 28.

Corticospinal drive during painful voluntary contractions at constant force output.

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  • 1Unit of Clinical Neurophysiology, Department of Neurological and Behavioural Sciences, University of Siena, Viale Bracci 1, 53100 Siena, Italy.


In the voluntary contractions, output force can be maintained constant although the inhibitory influences exerted by pain on muscle activity. We investigated changes in the spontaneous and evoked activity of the abductor digiti minimi muscle (ADM) and the biceps brachii muscle (BIC) in healthy volunteers during constant force noxious contraction, resulting from chemically activated nociceptive afferents. EMG-force relationship, motor-evoked response (MEP) to transcranial magnetic stimulation and determinism (DET) of surface EMG signals during constant force contraction was analyzed before, during and after chemically induced tonic activation of their nociceptive afferents. Under constant force contraction, amplitude of surface EMG signal decreased in BIC and increased in ADM during pain with respect to control condition. In both muscles, the size of motor-evoked potential (MEP) induced by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the primary motor cortex was significantly higher during pain than in control. Level of determinism extracted from surface EMG signal by non-linear method was similarly and significantly increased in both muscles during pain stimulation. Finally, nociceptive stimulation caused a decline in steadiness of the force exerted by ADM and BIC. These results are interpreted in terms of increased corticospinal synchronizing inputs. The possibility that it may play a role in governing force production to counteract pain inhibitory influences on motor system is considered.

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