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Sci Rep. 2017 Jun 2;7(1):2742. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-03188-9.

Specific brain activation patterns associated with two neuromuscular electrical stimulation protocols.

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Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, CRMBM, UMR 7339, 13385, Marseille, France.
Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, Laboratoire Neurosciences Intégratives et Adaptatives, UMR 7260, 13385, Marseille, France.
AP-HM, Hôpital de Sainte Marguerite, Service de Rhumatologie, Pôle Appareil Locomoteur, 13005, Marseille, France.
AP-HM, Hôpital de la Timone, CEMEREM, Pôle Imagerie Médicale, 13005, Marseille, France.
Schulthess Clinic, Human Performance Lab, 8008, Zurich, Switzerland.
University of Lausanne, Faculty of Biology and Medicine, Institute of Sport Sciences and Department of Physiology, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, CRMBM, UMR 7339, 13385, Marseille, France.
Institut NeuroMyoGène, Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, INSERM U1217, CNRS UMR 5310, Villeurbanne, France.


The influence of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) parameters on brain activation has been scarcely investigated. We aimed at comparing two frequently used NMES protocols - designed to vary in the extent of sensory input. Whole-brain functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed in sixteen healthy subjects during wide-pulse high-frequency (WPHF, 100 Hz-1 ms) and conventional (CONV, 25 Hz-0.05 ms) NMES applied over the triceps surae. Each protocol included 20 isometric contractions performed at 10% of maximal force. Voluntary plantar flexions (VOL) were performed as control trial. Mean force was not different among the three protocols, however, total current charge was higher for WPHF than for CONV. All protocols elicited significant activations of the sensorimotor network, cerebellum and thalamus. WPHF resulted in lower deactivation in the secondary somatosensory cortex and precuneus. Bilateral thalami and caudate nuclei were hyperactivated for CONV. The modulation of the NMES parameters resulted in differently activated/deactivated regions related to total current charge of the stimulation but not to mean force. By targeting different cerebral brain regions, the two NMES protocols might allow for individually-designed rehabilitation training in patients who can no longer execute voluntary movements.

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