Janet Taylor – Abstract

Impairment of motor output by fatigue-related firing of small-diameter muscle afferents

Taylor J
School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University & Neuroscience Research Australia

During fatiguing exercise, firing of small-diameter muscle afferents, which are sensitive to the accumulation of metabolites, leads to sensations of burning and fatigue from the exercising muscles. As well as eliciting reflex cardiorespiratory responses, these afferents impair voluntary motor performance. Occlusion of blood flow to the muscle after fatiguing exercise can trap metabolites and prolong firing of these afferents to allow investigation of their actions. Such studies have shown that voluntary activation of both upper and lower limb muscles is reduced by firing of afferents that innervate the tested muscle, as well as by firing of afferents from antagonist muscles, and also from more distal muscles in the same limb (1,2). For example, voluntary activation of the elbow flexor muscles is reduced by feedback from the elbow flexors, the elbow extensors or the hand. By contrast, afferents from the contralateral limb do not reduce voluntary activation (3). Reductions in motoneurone excitability may contribute to reduced voluntary activation for some muscle groups but some motoneurone pools are facilitated by fatigue-related sensory feedback (4). Therefore, supraspinal actions of the afferents are likely to feature in impairment of voluntary activation. However, no robust effects on responses to motor cortical stimulation have been reported. Thus, the supraspinal site of action and the mechanism by which fatigue-sensitive small-diameter muscle afferents impair motor output remain uncertain.

  1. Kennedy DS, McNeil CJ, Gandevia SC, Taylor JL (2013) Firing of antagonist small-diameter muscle afferents reduces voluntary activation and torque of elbow flexors. J Physiol 591, 3591-3604.
  2. Kennedy DS, McNeil CJ, Gandevia SC, Taylor JL (2014) Fatigue-related firing of distal muscle nociceptors reduces voluntary activation of proximal muscles of the same limb. J Appl Physiol 116, 385-394.
  3. Kennedy DS, Fitzpatrick SC, Gandevia SC, Taylor JL (2015) Fatigue-related firing of muscle nociceptors reduces voluntary activation of ipsilateral but not contralateral lower limb muscles. J Appl Physiol 118, 408-418.
  4. Martin PG, Smith JL, Butler JE, Gandevia SC, Taylor JL (2006) Fatigue-sensitive afferents inhibit extensor but not flexor motoneurons in humans. J Neurosci 26, 4796-4802.