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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Nov;32(11):1942-8.

Motor cortex fatigue in sports measured by transcranial magnetic double stimulation.

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Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, University of Göttingen, Germany.



Besides peripheral mechanisms, central fatigue is an important factor limiting the performance of exhausting exercise in sport. The mechanisms responsible are still in discussion. Using noninvasive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) in a double-pulse technique, we sought to assess fatigue of the motor cortex after exhaustive anaerobic strain.


23 male subjects (22-52 yr) taking part in the study were requested to accomplish as many pull-ups as possible until exhaustion. The amount of physical lifting work was recorded. Before and immediately after the task, intracortical inhibition (ICI) and facilitation (ICF) were measured by a conditioned-test double-pulse TMS method for the right brachioradialis (BR) and abductor pollicis brevis muscle (APB).


After exercise, ICF was significantly reduced in the BR but not in the APB. ICI was not altered. Changes tended to normalize within 8 min after the task. The amount of lifting work accomplished showed significant correlation to the values of ICF reduction (r = 0.73). Moreover, the baseline values of ICF before exercise were also significantly correlated to the lifting work (r = 0.63).


Because double-pulse TMS gives access to the motor cortex independently of spinal or peripheral mechanisms, reduced ICF reflects decreased excitability of interneuronal circuits within the motor cortex. We suggest that ICF measures motor cortex fatigue after exhausting strain specifically for the muscles performing the task. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic neurotransmission is possibly involved in the mechanisms mediating central fatigue. Double-pulse TMS may be a useful tool in the control of training in sports as well as in the detection of pathological central fatigue in overreaching and in the prevention of overtraining.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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