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Keywords:

  • soleus H-reflex;
  • low-frequency depression;
  • electric stimulation;
  • spine;
  • multisegmental responses;
  • thoracolumbar region

Abstract

The objectives of this study were to characterize the neurophysiological properties of the compound muscle action potentials (CMAPs) evoked by transcutaneous electric stimulation of the spine (tsESS), and the effects of tsESS on the soleus H-reflex in seated and standing healthy human subjects. In seated semi-prone subjects with the trunk semi-flexed, two re-usable self-adhering electrodes (cathode), connected to act as one electrode, were placed bilaterally on the iliac crests. A re-usable pregelled electrode (anode) was placed on the thoracolumbar region at thoracic 10–lumbar 1 and held under constant pressure throughout the experiment. CMAPs were recorded bilaterally from ankle muscles with subjects seated semi-prone at 1.0, 0.3, 0.2, 0.125, and 0.1 Hz following tsESS. The soleus H-reflex, evoked by posterior tibial nerve stimulation via conventional methods, was measured following tsESS at inter-stimulus intervals (ISIs) that ranged from −100 to 100 ms with the subjects seated semi-prone and during standing. The tsESS-induced CMAPs were not decreased at low stimulation frequencies, and the soleus H-reflex excitability was profoundly decreased by tsESS at ISIs that ranged from −5 to 20 ms with the subjects seated semi-prone and during standing. CMAPs induced by tsESS may be utilized to assess spinal-to-muscle conduction time while bypassing spinal motoneuron excitability and tsESS can be used as a modality to decrease spinal reflex hyper-excitability in neurological disorders. Bioelectromagnetics 34:630–640, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.