Vibration-induced depression in spinal loop excitability revisited

J Physiol. 2019 Nov;597(21):5179-5193. doi: 10.1113/JP278469. Epub 2019 Oct 3.


Key points: While it has been well described that prolonged vibration locally applied to a muscle or its tendon (up to 1 h) decreases spinal loop excitability between homonymous Ia afferents and motoneurons, the involved mechanisms are not fully understood. By combining electrophysiological methods, this study aimed to provide new insights into the mechanisms involved in soleus decreased spinal excitability after prolonged local vibration. We report that prolonged vibration induces a decrease in motoneuron excitability rather than an increase in presynaptic mechanisms (as commonly hypothesized in the current literature). The present results may help to design appropriate clinical intervention and could reinforce the interest in vibration as a treatment for spastic patients who are characterized by spinal hyper-excitability responsible for spasms and long-lasting reflexes.

Abstract: The mechanisms that can explain the decreased spinal loop excitability in response to prolonged local vibration (LV), as assessed by the H-reflex, remain to be precisely determined. This study provides new insights into how prolonged Achilles' tendon LV (30 min, 100 Hz) acutely interacts with the spinal circuitry. The roles of presynaptic inhibition exerted on Ia afferents (Experiment A, n = 15), neurotransmitter release at the synapse level (Experiment B, n = 11) and motoneuron excitability (Experiment C, n = 11) were investigated in soleus. Modulation of presynaptic inhibition was assessed by conditioning the soleus H-reflex (tibial nerve electrical stimulation) with fibular nerve (D1 inhibition) and femoral nerve (heteronymous facilitation, HF) electrical stimulations. Potential vibration-induced changes in neurotransmitter depletion at the Ia afferent terminals was assessed through paired stimulations applied over the tibial nerve (HD). Intrinsic motoneuron excitability was assessed with thoracic motor evoked potentials (TMEPs) in response to electrical stimulation over the thoracic spine. Non-conditioned H-reflex was depressed by ∼60% after LV (P < 0.001), while D1 and HF H-reflexes increased by ∼75% after LV (P = 0.03 and 0.06, respectively). In Experiment B, HD remained unchanged after LV (P = 0.80). In Experiment C, TMEPs were reduced by ∼13% after LV (P = 0.01). Overall, presynaptic mechanisms do not seem to be involved in the depression of spinal excitability after LV. It rather seems to rely, at least in part, on a decrease in intrinsic motoneuron excitability. These results may have implications in reducing spinal hyper-excitability in spastic patients.

Keywords: electrophysiological testing; local vibration; motoneuronal excitability; presynaptic inhibition; spinal excitability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / metabolism
  • Achilles Tendon / physiology
  • Adult
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology*
  • Female
  • Femoral Nerve / metabolism
  • Femoral Nerve / physiology
  • H-Reflex / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscle Spasticity / metabolism
  • Muscle Spasticity / physiopathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Peroneal Nerve / metabolism
  • Peroneal Nerve / physiology
  • Spine / metabolism
  • Spine / physiology*
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Tibial Nerve / metabolism
  • Tibial Nerve / physiology
  • Vibration
  • Young Adult