Contraction intensity modulates spinal excitability during transcranial magnetic stimulation-evoked silent period in rectus femoris muscle

Gonzalo Guerrero*, Paul Ansdell, Glyn Howatson, Janne Avela, Simon J. Walker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Reduced spinal excitability during the transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) silent period (SP) has recently been shown to last longer than previously thought in the upper limbs, as assessed via spinal electrical stimulation. Further, there is reason to expect that contraction intensity affects the duration of the reduced spinal excitability.

This study investigated spinal excitability at different time delays within the TMS-evoked SP in m.rectus femoris. Fifteen participants performed non-fatiguing isometric knee extensions at 25%, 50% and 75% of maximum voluntary contraction (MVC). Lumbar stimulation (LS) induced a lumbar-evoked potential (LEP) of 50% resting M-max. TMS stimulator output induced a SP lasting ~ 200 ms. In each contraction, a LEP (unconditioned) was delivered ~ 2–3 s prior to TMS, which was followed by a second LEP (conditioned) 60, 90, 120 or 150 ms into the silent period. Five contractions were performed at each contraction intensity and for each time delay in random order.

Compared to the unconditioned LEP, the conditioned LEP amplitude was reduced (− 28 ± 34%, p = 0.007) only at 60 ms during 25% of MVC. Conditioned LEP amplitudes during 50% and 75% of MVC were reduced at 60 ms (− 37 ± 47%, p = 0.009 and − 37 ± 42%, p = 0.005, respectively) and 150 ms (− 30% ± 37%, p = 0.0083 and − 37 ± 43%, p = 0.005, respectively). LEP amplitude at 90 ms during 50% of MVC also reduced (− 25 ± 35%, p = 0.013).

Reduced spinal excitability is extended during 50% and 75% of MVC. In future, paired TMS-LS could be a potential method to understand changes in spinal excitability during SP (at different contraction intensities) when testing various neurophysiological phenomena.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Early online date30 Nov 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Nov 2023

Cite this