Inhibition of hand muscle motoneurones by peripheral nerve stimulation in the relaxed human subject. Antidromic versus orthodromic input

M. Inghilleri, A. Berardelli, G. Cruccu, M. Manfredi, A. Priori, J. C. Rothwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In active muscle, a supramaximal conditioning stimulus to peripheral nerve produces a classic silent period in the EMG. The present experiments examined the effect of this type of conditioning stimulus on motoneurone excitability in relaxed muscle. EMG responses evoked by transcranial magnetic stimulation of the brain were recorded from the first dorsal interosseus muscle (FDI) in 10 healthy subjects and 5 patients with sensory neuropathy. These responses (motor evoked potentials) were conditioned by supramaximal peripheral nerve stimuli given 0-150 msec beforehand. In the normal subjects, the classic silent period in the FDI lasted about 100 msec. The same conditioning stimulus only abolished motor evoked potentials when the conditioning-test interval was so short that the antidromic peripheral nerve volley collided with the orthodromic volley set up by magnetic brain stimulation. At longer conditioning-test intervals, although remarkably inhibited (65% mean suppression between 10 and 40 msec), the test motor potential was never completely abolished and gradually recovered by 100 msec. Inhibition of cortically evoked motor potentials did not depend upon activity set up by the conditioning stimulus in peripheral nerve sensory fibres. The patients with complete peripheral sensory neuropathy had the same extent and time-course of inhibition as the normal subjects. We conclude that in relaxed subjects the inhibitory effect of peripheral conditioning results almost exclusively from the motoneuronal inhibitory mechanisms consequent to antidromic invasion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-68
Number of pages6
JournalElectroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology - Electromyography and Motor Control
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1995


  • (Human)
  • Conditioning by peripheral nerve stimulation
  • Electromyography
  • Excitability of alpha-motoneurones
  • Magnetic brain stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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