Evidence for interneuronally mediated Ia excitatory effects to human quadriceps motoneurones

J Physiol. 1986 Aug;377:143-69. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1986.sp016179.


The possibility was investigated that interneuronal pathways contribute to Ia excitation of quadriceps motoneurones in normal man. Two techniques were used: the indirect spatial facilitation technique for investigating summation of Ia excitatory effects in interneurones which may be interposed in pathways to quadriceps motoneurones; the post-stimulus time histogram method for time course measurement of the firing probability of voluntarily activated motor units following femoral nerve stimulation. The spatial facilitation technique was applied while using the quadriceps H reflex to assess the excitability of the whole motoneurone pool: the comparison was made between the excitatory effects of two conditioning stimuli applied either separately or together. Summation of effects at a premotoneuronal level is suggested if facilitation of the reflex evoked on combined conditioning stimulation is larger than the algebraic sum of facilitations evoked by separate stimuli. Quadriceps tendon tap and electrical stimulations applied to either the femoral nerve or to two of its branches, the nerves to the vastus lateralis and vastus medialis muscles, were used as conditioning stimuli. Since these stimuli were very weak (their strength being about at the threshold for facilitation of the test reflex), it can be assumed that they activated predominantly Ia fibres. The facilitation of the quadriceps H reflex evoked on combined stimulation was significantly larger than the algebraic sum of facilitations evoked by separate stimuli. In many experiments, although conditioning stimuli did not evoke any reflex facilitation when applied alone, a significant facilitation appeared on combined stimulation. This 'extra' facilitation of the reflex on combined stimulation appeared with a central latency of 4-5 ms. It is argued that the only mechanism compatible with such a latency is summation at a premotoneuronal level. Post-stimulus time histograms (p.s.t.h.s) of voluntarily activated quadriceps motor units were made following femoral nerve stimulation. Stimulation was triggered at a fixed delay time after the activation of the motor unit. A special attempt was made to set this delay so that the motoneuronal after-hyperpolarization following the spike would partially prevent the discharge evoked by a monosynaptic excitatory post-synaptic potential (e.p.s.p.). At stimulus strengths near motor threshold, femoral nerve stimulation regularly evoked an early increase in firing probability of motor units with the same latency as the H reflex.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Adult
  • Femoral Nerve / physiology
  • H-Reflex
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscles / innervation*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Time Factors