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TASK-DEPENDENT MODULATION OF AFFERENT PATHWAYS BETWEEN ELBOW FLEXOR

MUSCLES.

ZA Riley, BK Barry, MA Pascoe, and RM Enoka.

Dept. of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO USA.

The relative activation of the elbow flexor muscles varies with changes in forearm
posture. Presumably, the inhibitory afferent projection from the branch of the radial
nerve that innervates brachioradialis to the biceps brachii motor neuron pool aids in the
control of the supination action of the biceps brachii. PURPOSE: To determine whether
the amount of inhibition of the biceps brachii muscle is modulated when changing
forearm postures from neutral to pronation or supination. METHODS: The pathway
was investigated using the spike-triggered stimulation technique. Single motor units in
both the long and short heads of biceps brachii were examined by recording from the
same motor unit during trials in 3 forearm postures: neutral, 45° supination, and 45°
pronation. Peripheral nerve stimulation was delivered to the brachioradialis branch of the
radial nerve at an intensity of 0.9x motor threshold for 0.5 ms duration. Subjects
produced small elbow flexion forces (3.3 ± 0.5 %MVC) and maintained an average
discharge rate of 11.5 ± 1.0 pps for the active motor unit. Stimuli were triggered at a
delay of 30 ms following motor unit discharge, every 2-3 seconds for an average of 82 ±
26 stimulations. Inhibition was quantified as the percent change from the pre- and post
stimulus interspike intervals as well as from X² statistics from the post-stimulus time
histograms. RESULTS: Ten motor units (5 long head, 5 short head) were discriminated
for all 3 postures. Significant differences were observed in 12 / 28 histograms, and an
overall prolongation of the interspike interval corresponding to a decrease in discharge
rate of the biceps brachii motor unit when the radial nerve was stimulated (P < 0.001).
Preliminary results indicate that the magnitude of this inhibition increased from
supination (1.81 %, P = 0.082) to neutral (3.31 %, P = 0.118) to pronation (6.47 %, P =
0.004). CONCLUSION: Stimulation of the radial nerve branch that innervates the
brachioradialis produced an inhibitory effect on the discharge of single motor units in
biceps brachii in each of the forearm postures, with the greatest inhibition occurring when
the forearm was pronated.

Supported by NINDS R01 NS43275 to RME.