Changes in corticomotor excitability of forearm muscles in relation to static shoulder positions

Federica Ginanneschi, Federica Dominici, Alessia Biasella, Francesca Gelli, Alessandro Rossi
Brain Research 2006 February 16, 1073: 332-8
We examined whether the recruitment properties of the corticospinal pathway to forearm muscles are influenced by variations of the shoulder joint angle. Flexor carpi radialis (FCR) and extensor carpi radialis (ECR) muscles motor evoked potentials (MEPs) in response to transcranial magnetic stimulation were examined during different static positions of shoulder joint in the horizontal plane: from 30 degrees abduction to 30 degrees adduction. We found that at 30 degrees shoulder adduction, maximum slope and plateau phase of the ECR and FCR input-output relationship (i.e., relation between MEP size and stimulus intensity) were significantly higher and lower than at 30 degrees abduction of the shoulder joint, respectively. Intracortical inhibition (ICI) and intracortical facilitation (ICF) of the FCR were assessed using a paired-magnetic pulse paradigm. A significant decrease in ICF was observed after changing shoulder position from 30 degrees abduction to 30 degrees adduction. On the contrary, no variation in the amount of ICI occurred in relation to the same changes in shoulder position. FCR H-reflex to electrical stimulation of median nerve at elbow did not differ significantly between the two shoulder positions. We conclude that shoulder position influences the recruitment efficiency (gain) of the corticospinal volleys to motoneurones of forearm muscles. It is proposed that activity of peripheral receptors signaling static shoulder position influences corticomotor excitability of forearm muscles mainly at cortical level, although C3-C4 propriospinal system could be also involved. It is proposed that the above changes in corticomotoneuronal excitability to forearm muscles as function of shoulder joint position are part of a global proximal-distal synergy operating throughout reaching movements.

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