Voluntary muscle and motor cortical activation during progressive exercise and passively induced hyperthermia

Exp Physiol. 2014 Jan;99(1):136-48. doi: 10.1113/expphysiol.2013.074583. Epub 2013 Sep 13.


This study examined whether central fatigue was exacerbated by an increase in muscle contractile speed caused by passive hyperthermia (PaH) and whether exercise-induced hyperthermia (ExH) combined with related peripheral fatigue influenced this response. The ExH was induced by cycling at 60% of maximal oxygen uptake in 38°C conditions and the PaH by sitting in a 48°C climate chamber. Ten men performed brief (≈ 5 s) and sustained (30 s) maximal voluntary isometric contractions (MVCs) of the knee extensors at baseline (CON, ∼37.1°C) and during moderate (MOD, ≈ 38.5°C) and severe (SEV, ∼39.5°C) hyperthermia. Motor nerve and transcranial magnetic stimulation were used to assess voluntary muscle and cortical activation level, along with contractile properties. Brief MVC force decreased to a similar extent during SEV-ExH (-8%) and SEV-PaH (-6%; P < 0.05 versus CON). Sustained MVC force also decreased during MOD-ExH (-10%), SEV-ExH (-13%) and SEV-PaH (-7%; P < 0.01 versus CON). Motor nerve and cortical activation were reduced on reaching MOD (≈ 3%) and SEV (≈ 5%) ExH and PaH during the brief and sustained MVCs (P < 0.01 versus CON). Peak twitch force decreased on reaching SEV-ExH and SEV-PaH (P < 0.05 versus CON). Following transcranial magnetic stimulation, during the brief and sustained MVCs the peak muscle relaxation rate increased in ExH and PaH (P < 0.01 versus CON). The increase was greatest during the sustained contraction in SEV-PaH (P < 0.01), but this did not exacerbate central fatigue relative to ExH. These results indicate that during fatiguing cycling exercise in the heat, quadriceps peak relaxation rate increases. However, the centrally mediated rate of activation appears sufficient to overcome even the largest increase in muscle relaxation rate, seen during SEV-PaH.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Fever / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Hyperthermia, Induced / methods
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology
  • Knee / physiology
  • Knee Joint / physiology
  • Male
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology
  • Muscle Relaxation / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods