Fatigue‐related changes in neuromuscular excitability of rat hindlimb muscles

Roger M. Enoka, Lucinda L. Rankin, Michael J. Joyner, Douglas G. Stuart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Brief repetitive trains of supramaximal nerve stimulation produce intermittent muscle activation and, in time, a progressive decline in force (i.e., neuromuscular fatigue) and depression of the electromyogram (EMG). These changes may include within‐train reductions in EMG due to a failure of neuromuscular propagation.13 The aim of the present study was to investigate changes in EMG during a 360‐second stimulus regimen designed to fatigue soleus and extensor digitorum longus muscles of anesthetized rats by activating the muscle with repetitive trains of 40 Hz stimuli. Measurements included peak force for each tetanus, variation of the within‐train EMG (coefficient of variation for area), and magnitude of the first EMG waveform (area) of each train. Fatigue was characterized as the relative decline in force over the course of the test. The responses of the test muscles were categorized, based on an absolute scale of fatigability, into five groups: potentiated, nonfatigable, low fatigability, intermediate fatigability, and high fatigability. Fatigable muscles (low, intermediate, and high fatigability groups) demonstrated a decreased EMG magnitude and an increased EMG‐area variation with repetitive activation. This increased variation, however, was nonmonotonically related to fatigability such that the least and most fatigable muscles had the smallest within‐train EMG variation. We suggest that these data can be explained by considering the EMG (compound muscle action potential) as a stochastic process that represents a composite of single‐fiber events (axonal to sarcolemmal transmission) with variable probabillities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1123-1132
Number of pages10
JournalMuscle & Nerve
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Physiology (medical)


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