Neuromuscular efficiency of the triceps surae in induced and voluntary contractions: morning and evening evaluations

V Castaingts, A Martin, J Van Hoecke, C Pérot
Chronobiology International 2004, 21 (4): 631-43
Variations in force and electromyographic (EMG) activities of skeletal muscles with the time-of-day have been previously described, but not for a postural muscle, submitted to daily postural and locomotor tasks. In this article, mechanical performances, EMGs, and the ratio between these parameters, i.e., the neuromuscular efficiency (NME), were measured on the triceps surae (TS) of eight subjects, two times each day, at 6:00 and 18:00 h. NME was evaluated under different experimental conditions (electrically induced contractions, reflex contractions, maximal and submaximal voluntary isometric contractions, and during a natural movement, a drop jump) to determine whether mechanisms, peripheral or central in origin, were responsible for the eventual changes in NME with time-of-day. To calculate NME in induced conditions (NMEind), a supramaximal electrical stimulus was applied to the tibial nerve, and the maximal M wave of TS (TS Mmax) and the amplitude of the twitch tension (PtMmax) in response to this electrical stimulation were quantified. TS Mmax was significantly lower in the evening (mean gain value -10.7 +/- 5.5%, p < 0.05), whereas PtMmax was not significantly modified. NMEind (PtMmax/TS Mmax) was significantly higher in the evening (mean gain of 17.6 +/- 5.8%, p < 0.05), and this increase was necessarily peripheral in origin. Secondly, maximal tendon taps were applied to the Achilles tendon in order to quantify at the two times-of-day the reflexes in response to a mechanical stimulus. The maximal reflex, TS Tmax/Mmax (%), the peak amplitude of the twitch tension associated to this tendon jerk (PtTmax), and the corresponding NME (NMEreflex = PtTmax/TS Tmax/Mmax) were not affected by time-of-day, indicating that reflex excitability did not present daytime variations when tested under these conditions. Voluntary isometric contractions were required under maximal (MVC) and submaximal (25% MVC) conditions, and the corresponding torques and TS EMG were measured. MVC was higher in the evening (mean gain: 8.6 +/- 2.7%, p < 0.05) and TS EMGmax (normalized with regard to TS Mmax) also increased in the evening but not significantly; thus, NMEMvc was not modified. At 25% of MVC, TS EMG was significantly higher in the evening (mean gain of 23 +/- 13.9%, p <0.05) and a trend for a lower NME25%MVC in the evening was observed, a result probably representative of a higher muscle fatigue state in the evening. Finally, to test the muscle capacities during a natural task, a NME index was calculated during a drop jump (DJ). The NMEDJ was defined as the ratio between jump height and mean amplitude of TS EMG (% of TS Mmax) between the drop and the jump. Both jump height and NMEDJ were significantly higher in the evening (mean gains of 10.9 +/- 4.5% and 15.7 +/- 7.4%, respectively, p <0.05). In conclusion, daytime changes in the efficiency of postural muscles seem to depend on both peripheral and central mechanisms. According to the experimental conditions, NME of the postural muscle could increase, remain constant, or even decrease in the evening, and this result may reflect reverse effects of better contractile capacities and higher fatigue state.

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