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Immobilization induces changes in presynaptic control of group Ia afferents in healthy humans

Authors

  • Jesper Lundbye-Jensen,

    1. Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology
    2. Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 3, Panum Institute 24.6, DK-2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark
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  • Jens Bo Nielsen

    1. Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology
    2. Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 3, Panum Institute 24.6, DK-2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark
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Corresponding author J. Lundbye-Jensen: Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology & Department of Exercise & Sport Sciences, University of Copenhagen, The Panum Institute 22.3, Blegdamsvej 3, DK-2200 København N, Denmark. Email: j.lundbye@mfi.ku.dk

Abstract

Neural plasticity occurs throughout adult life in response to maturation, use and disuse. Recent studies have documented that H-reflex amplitudes increase following a period of immobilization. To elucidate the mechanisms contributing to the increase in H-reflex size following immobilization we immobilized the left foot and ankle joint for 2 weeks in 12 able-bodied subjects. Disynaptic reciprocal inhibition of soleus (SOL) motoneurons and presynaptic control of SOL group Ia afferents was measured before and after the immobilization as well as following 2 weeks of recovery. Following immobilization, maximal voluntary plantar- and dorsiflexion torque (MVC) was significantly reduced and the maximal SOL H-reflex amplitude increased with no changes in the maximal compound motor response (Mmax). Decreased presynaptic inhibition of the Ia afferents probably contributed to the increase of the H-reflex size, since we observed a significant decrease in the long-latency depression of the SOL H-reflex evoked by peroneal nerve stimulation (D2 inhibition) and an increase in the size of the monosynaptic Ia facilitation of the SOL H-reflex evoked by femoral nerve stimulation. These two measures provide independent evidence of changes in presynaptic inhibition of SOL Ia afferents and taken together suggest that GABAergic presynaptic inhibition of the SOL Ia afferents is decreased following 2 weeks of immobilization. The depression of the SOL H-reflex when evoked at intervals shorter than 10 s (homosynaptic post-activation depression) also decreased following immobilization, suggesting that the activity-dependent regulation of transmitter release from the afferents was also affected by immobilization. We observed no significant changes in disynaptic reciprocal Ia inhibition. Two weeks after cast removal measurements returned to pre-immobilization levels. Together, these observations suggest that disuse causes plastic changes in spinal interneuronal circuitries responsible for presynaptic control of sensory input to the spinal cord. This may be of significance for the motor disabilities seen following immobilization as well as the development of spasticity following central motor lesions.

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