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Muscle Nerve. 1994 Apr;17(4):381-5.

Submaximal stimuli activate different nerve fiber populations at different sites.

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  • 1Division of Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115.


Theoretically, the largest and fastest nerve fibers are preferentially stimulated with submaximal stimuli. However, it is also well known that intraneural fascicular topography changes substantially along a proximal to distal axis. Because of this change in fascicular topography, we hypothesized the percutaneous submaximal stimuli applied to a nerve at different locations would stimulate different subpopulations of large fibers. We performed a series of collision studies by stimulating the ulnar nerve submaximally at proximal and distal sites at varying levels of stimulation intensity from motor threshold to supramaximal stimulation. The results suggest that variation in intraneural topography at different sites allows different large diameter nerve fiber subpopulations to be activated at submaximal stimuli, and emphasizes the importance of supramaximal stimulation to determine a valid conduction velocity.

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