Modulation of within limb and interlimb reflexes during rhythmic arm cycling




Hundza, Sandra R.

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In common with animal species, evidence in humans suggests that similar neural mechanisms (e.g. locomotor central pattern generator (CPG)) regulate rhythmic movements in both arm and leg and that interlimb neural connections coordinate movement between upper and lower limbs ; however, by comparison the evidence in humans is limited. This thesis focused upon exploring the neural control of rhythmic arm cycling and the influence of the neural control of arm cycling on the neural circuits controlling the legs. Specifically, the effect of five different arm cycling paradigms on EMG and reflex responses in arm and leg muscles were explored. First, the pattern of muscle activity and cutaneous reflex modulation evoked with electrical stimulation to the superficial radial (SR) nerve were evaluated during forward and backward arm cycling. Irrespective of the cycling direction, background electromyographic (bEMG) and cutaneous reflex patterns were similarly modulated suggesting similar neural control mechanisms for both forward and backward cycling. These bEMG and reflex findings provide further evidence of contributions from CPG activity to the neural regulation of rhythmic arm movement. Second, bEMG and cutaneous reflex (SR nerve) modulation were evaluated during three dissimilar bilateral rhythmic arm cycling tasks created by unilaterally manipulating crank length (CL). The neural regulation of arm cycling was shown to be insensitive to asymmetrical changes in arm crank length suggesting that the neural control was equivalent across the three dissimilar rhythmic arm cycling tasks and that differences in peripherally generated inputs between the dissimilar rhythmic tasks had limited effect on the neural control. Third, the neural control of arm movements was evaluated between those with unstable shoulders and control participants. The alterations of bEMG and the cutaneous reflex patterns suggest that the neural control is compromised in those with shoulder instabilities during rhythmic arm movement. Fourth, inhibition of the soleus H-reflex in stationary legs induced by rhythmic arm cycling was shown to be graded with arm cycling frequency. A minimum threshold arm cycling frequency of .8Hz was required to produce a significant interlimb effect. Fifth, the degree of the soleus H-reflex suppression induced by arm cycling was independent of afferent feedback associated with arm cycling at different crank loads. In combination the latter two studies suggest that central motor commands related to the frequency of arm cycling is the major signal responsible for the soleus H-reflex suppression in stationary legs, while afferent feedback related to upper limb loading during arm cycling is not. Collectively, the data contained in this thesis contribute to the evidence suggesting that CPG activity contributes to neural regulation of rhythmic arm movement, alterations in sensory feedback associated with arm cycling have limited influence on the observed reflex modulation and that the neural control can be disrupted in the presence of prolonged orthopaedic injury. Taken together with our previous findings, the current results also suggests that central motor command (e.g. CPGs) for rhythm generation of the rhythmic arm movement is the primary source of the signal responsible for the observed interlimb neural communication.



Human locomotion, Arm cycling