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Sustained Cycling Exercise Increases Intracortical Inhibition


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: April 2013 - Volume 45 - Issue 4 - p 654–662
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31827b119c
Basic Sciences

Purpose In the current study, we measured EMG suppression induced by subthreshold transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to investigate the effects of sustained cycling exercise on intracortical inhibition.

Methods Sixteen subjects cycled at 75% of their maximum workload (W max) for 30 min, during which subthreshold TMS was applied at a defined crank angle where vastus lateralis (VL) EMG amplitude was increasing and approximately 50% of its recorded maximum. Subthreshold TMS was also applied during nonfatiguing control cycling bouts at 75% and 37.5% of W maxbefore sustained cycling.

Results Although EMG in VL during control cycling at 37.5% W max was approximately half that during cycling at 75% W max (P ≤ 0.05), the amount of EMG suppression was not different between workloads (P > 0.05). EMG amplitude in VL recorded in the last 5 min of sustained cycling was not different from the first 5 min (P > 0.05), whereas the amount of EMG suppression at the end of the sustained cycling was significantly greater than that at the start (P ≤ 0.05).

Conclusions The increase in TMS-evoked EMG suppression during sustained cycling implies an increase in the excitability of the intracortical inhibitory interneurons during the exercise. The observed increase in intracortical inhibition is similar to that observed during sustained single joint contractions, suggesting that changes in the responsiveness of intracortical inhibitory interneurons are similar during locomotor exercise and static single joint contractions.

1School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, AUSTRALIA; and 2Department of Sport Science, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, GERMANY

Address for correspondence: Simranjit K. Sidhu, Ph.D., School of HumanMovement Studies Centre for Sensorimotor Neuroscience, The University of Queensland Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 4072; E-mail:

Submitted for publication September 2012.

Accepted for publication October 2012.

©2013The American College of Sports Medicine