Contralateral facilitation, i.e., the increase in contralateral maximal voluntary strength that is observed when neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is applied to the ipsilateral homonymous muscle, has previously been reported for the knee extensors but the neurophysiological mechanisms remain to be investigated. The aim of this study was to compare plantar flexor contralateral facilitation between a submaximal voluntary contraction (~10% MVC torque) and two evoked contractions (conventional and wide-pulse high-frequency NMES) of the ipsilateral plantar flexors, with respect to a resting condition. Contralateral MVC torque and voluntary activation level were measured in 22 healthy participants while the ipsilateral plantar flexors were at rest, voluntarily contracted or stimulated for 15 s. Additional neurophysiological parameters (soleus H-reflex and V-wave amplitude and tibialis anterior coactivation level) were quantified in a subgroup of 12 participants. Conventional and wide-pulse high-frequency NMES of the ipsilateral plantar flexors did not induce any contralateral facilitation of maximal voluntary strength and activation with respect to the resting condition. Similarly, no alteration of neurophysiological parameters was observed in the different conditions. This absence of contralateral facilitation contrasts with some results previously obtained on the knee extensors but is consistent with the absence of neurophysiological changes on the contralateral soleus.
Keywords: H reflex; V wave; coactivation; contralateral facilitation; maximal voluntary contraction; voluntary activation level.