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Título: Electrophysiological assessment of neuromuscular adaptations to training
Autor: Vila-Chã, Carolina
Palavras-chave: Motor Units
Endurance Training
Strength training
Motor unit conduction velocity
Issue Date: 2011
Editora: Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Engenharia
Citação: Vila-Chã, Carolina (2011) - Electrophysiological assessment of neuromuscular adaptations to training. Porto: Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Engenharia
Resumo: Over the last decades, it has been shown that the human neuromuscular system is highly adaptive and can be modified in response to different motor training programs. Depending on the demands of the motor training, the adaptations seem to involve distinct structural and functional changes across the motor cortex, spinal cord and skeletal muscle. The technological development observed in the last years, increased the use of electrophysiological techniques to assess the neuromuscular adaptations to motor training. Nonetheless, the current evidences on the neuromuscular adaptations to different motor training are inconsistent and incomplete, in particular regarding endurance and strength training. This is mainly due to lack of studies based on a rigorous consideration of the limitations of the available techniques. Therefore, the main goal of this dissertation is to give new insights on the adaptations of the neuromuscular system by systematically investigating the changes in its central and peripheral properties in response to endurance and strength training. For this purpose, recent developed techniques for recording and processing electromiographycal (EMG) signals were applied. The first study (STUDY I) investigated if 6 weeks of either endurance or strength training alters the motor unit behavior and if such changes were accompanied by alterations in muscle fiber properties. Intramuscular and multichannel surface EMG recordings were used to investigate the motor unit discharge rates and motor unit conduction velocity (MUCV) of the vastus medialis obliquus and vastus lateralis during submaximal isometric contractions. The results demonstrated that endurance training increased endurance capacity and was accompanied by a decrease of the motor unit discharge rates. In contrast, strength training enhanced maximum force output and was accompanied by an increase of the motor unit discharge rates. By the end of 6 weeks of training, both training programs elicited increases in the motor unit conduction velocity, revealing electrophysiological adaptations of the muscle fiber membrane properties in similar directions. However, in the first 3 weeks of training, when changes in motor unit discharge rates were most marked, changes in MUCV were not observed. These findings reveal different time courses of some of the neural and peripheral adaptations in response to different motor training programs. The observed changes may contribute for distinct neuromuscular fatigue profiles among endurance and strength-trained athletes. Therefore, the aim of the second study (STUDY II) was to investigate the effects of 6 weeks of endurance and a strength training program on acute responses of the muscle fiber membrane properties and discharges rates of low threshold motor units of the vastus medialis obliquus and vastus lateralis muscles during prolonged submaximal isometric contractions. The conduction velocity of the individual motor units was estimated from the averaged multichannel EMG surface potentials by a spike triggered average technique. It was shown that motor unit discharge rate declines over the duration of the sustained contraction and their trend was not significantly affected by training. Conversely, the rate of decline of motor unit conduction velocity during sustained contractions was reduced following six weeks of both endurance and strength training, however a greater reduction is observed following endurance training. These alterations likely contribute to longer times to task failure following endurance training. The third study (STUDY III) intended to clarify the mechanisms involved in the opposite adjustments of the motor unit discharge rate observed in the study I. The results revealed that following 3 weeks of endurance training the excitability in the H-reflex pathway increased but the V-wave amplitude remained unchanged. In contrast, following strength training the V-wave amplitude increased whereas subtle changes were observed in the H-reflex pathway. These results suggest that the elements of the H-reflex pathway are strongly involved in chronic adjustments in response to endurance training, contributing to enhance resistance to fatigue. Conversely, following strength training, it is more likely that increased descending neural drive during MVC and/or modulation in afferents other than Ia afferents contributed to increased motoneuron excitability and maximal voluntary contraction. The present work revealed for the first time that endurance and strength training induces opposite adjustments in the motor unit behavior. Moreover, the distinct adjustments in the spinal cord output, seems to result from changes in different neural mechanisms located at supraspinal and/or spinal level. The neural adjustments following endurance training seems to result from changes at spinal level whereas the adjustments following strength training are likely due to changes at supraspinal level. These adaptations occurred following a short period of training, while no changes in the contractile and electrophysiological properties of the muscle fibers were detectable. Changes at peripheral level occurred only following a longer period of training.
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