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Relevance of stimulus duration for activation of motor and sensory fibers: implications for the study of H-reflexes and magnetic stimulation.

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EMG Laboratory, Fondazione Clinica del Lavoro, Campoli MT, Italy.


Electric stimuli with durations of 0.5-1.0 msec are optimal for studies of H-reflexes. It is more difficult to obtain H-reflexes with shorter duration stimuli or with magnetic stimulation. In order to understand this behavior, we studied the excitation thresholds for motor and sensory fibers in the ulnar, median and tibial nerves using both electric and magnetic stimulation. For short duration electrical stimuli (0.1 msec) the threshold for motor fibers is lower than for sensory fibers. For longer duration electric stimuli (1.0 msec) the threshold for sensory fibers is lower. For magnetic stimulation the threshold for motor fibers is much lower than for sensory fibers. Thus, stimulus duration is a critical parameter for sensory fiber excitation, and current magnetic stimulators are not optimal.

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