Neuromuscular electrical stimulation of the median nerve facilitates low motor cortex excitability in patients with spinocerebellar ataxia

J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2015 Feb;25(1):143-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2014.10.009. Epub 2014 Nov 1.


The neuromodulation of motor excitability has been shown to improve functional movement in people with central nervous system damage. This study aimed to investigate the mechanism of peripheral neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) in motor excitability and its effects in people with spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA). This single-blind case-control study was conducted on young control (n=9), age-matched control (n=9), and SCA participants (n=9; 7 SCAIII and 2 sporadic). All participants received an accumulated 30 min of NMES (25 Hz, 800 ms on/800 ms off) of the median nerve. The central motor excitability, measured by motor evoked potential (MEP) and silent period, and the peripheral motor excitability, measured by the H-reflex and M-wave, were recorded in flexor carpi radialis (FCR) muscle before, during, and after the NMES was applied. The results showed that NMES significantly enhanced the MEP in all 3 groups. The silent period, H-reflex and maximum M-wave were not changed by NMES. We conclude that NMES enhances low motor excitability in patients with SCA and that the mechanism of the neuromodulation was supra-segmental. These findings are potentially relevant to the utilization of NMES for preparation of motor excitability. The protocol was registered at (NCT02103075).

Keywords: Cerebellum; Motor evoked potential (MEP); Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES); Silent period; Spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA).

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor*
  • Female
  • H-Reflex
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Median Nerve / physiopathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias / physiopathology*
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias / therapy
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation*

Associated data