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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1985 Mar;58(3):942-7.

Electrical and mechanical failures during sustained and intermittent contractions in humans.


This paper compares the effects of sustained and intermittent contractions on electrical and mechanical failure during muscle fatigue in the human adductor pollicis electrically stimulated at 30 Hz via its motor nerve. Sixty-second sustained contractions are compared with a series of 60 1-s contractions, separated by 2.0-, 1.0-, and 0.5-s intervals for identical duration of tension development. Sixty-second sustained contractions decrease tetanic force to 60% (P less than 0.05) of initial values. No significant difference (P greater than 0.05) of force reduction was observed during intermittent 1-s contractions separated by 1-s intervals (-40%), but final force reduction was found to be significantly smaller (P less than 0.05) for 2-s intervals (-18%) and larger (P less than 0.05) for 0.5-s intervals (-65%). When identical force reduction is present in both fatigue tests, it appears that concomitant electrical failure is considerably different during sustained and intermittent contractions (P less than 0.05). This electromechanical dissociation suggests that slowing of conduction along nerve and muscle membranes, as well as possible increase of synaptic delay, does not explain the observed mechanical failure. It is therefore suggested that intracellular processes play the major role in contractile failure during sustained and intermittent contractions.

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