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J Physiol. 1990 Oct;429:17-27.

Reflex inhibition of human soleus muscle during fatigue.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


1. Human soleus muscles were fatigued under ischaemic conditions by intermittent stimulation at 15 Hz. When maximal voluntary plantarflexion was then attempted, the loss of torque was found to be associated with a reduction in voluntary EMG activity. 2. The decrease in EMG activity could not have been due to 'exhaustion' of descending motor drive in the central nervous system since fatigue had been induced by electrical stimulation of peripheral nerve fibres. Similarly, the decrease could not be explained by changes at the neuromuscular junction or muscle fibre membrane, since changes in the M wave (evoked muscle compound action potential) were relatively modest. 3. When the excitability of the soleus motoneurones was tested during fatigue, using the H (Hoffmann) reflex, it was found to be significantly reduced. Control experiments with ischaemia or electrical stimulation, but without fatigue, failed to demonstrate any significant effects on reflex excitability. 4. The findings in this study favour the concept of reflex inhibition of alpha-motoneurones during fatigue.

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