Rhythmic leg cycling modulates forearm muscle H-reflex amplitude and corticospinal tract excitability

Neurosci Lett. 2007 May 23;419(1):10-4. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2007.03.045. Epub 2007 Mar 25.


Rhythmic arm cycling leads to suppression of H-reflexes in both leg and arm muscles, and a reduction in the excitability of corticospinal projections to the forearm flexors. It is unknown, however, whether leg cycling modulates excitability in neural projections to the arms. Here we studied the extent to which rhythmic movement of the legs alters reflex (Experiment 1) and corticospinal (Experiment 2) transmission to arm muscles. In experiment 1, flexor carpi radialis (FCR) H-reflex recruitment curves were recorded with the legs static, and during rhythmic leg movement, while the FCR was both contracted and relaxed. The results indicate that rhythmic leg movement suppresses reflex transmission, both when FCR is at rest and during tonic contraction, but that the effect is not phase-dependent. In experiment 2, we used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to elicit motor-evoked potentials in the contracted and relaxed FCR during static leg, and leg cycling conditions. Sub-threshold TMS was also used to condition H-reflexes in order to provide specific information about cortical excitability during leg cycling. Both resting and tonically contracting arm muscles showed a greater corticospinal excitability during leg cycling than during the static leg condition. The magnitude of TMS facilitation of H-reflexes was similar during leg cycling and rest, suggesting a considerable sub-cortical component to the increased corticospinal excitability. The results suggest a differential regulation of afferent and descending projections to the arms during leg cycling, and are consistent with the idea that there is a loose, but significant, neural coupling between the arms and legs during rhythmic movement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electromyography / methods
  • Forearm / innervation*
  • H-Reflex / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Periodicity*
  • Pyramidal Tracts / physiology*