A powerful early inhibition is seen in triceps surae after transcutaneous electrical stimulation of the Achilles tendon [tendon electrical stimulation (TES)]. The aim of the present study was to confirm results from surface electromyogram (SEMG) recordings that the inhibition is not wholly or partly due to stimulation of cutaneous afferents that may lie within range of the tendon electrodes. Because of methodological limitations, SEMG does not reliably identify the time course of inhibitory and excitatory reflex components. This issue was revisited here with an analysis of changes in single motor unit (SMU) firing rate [peristimulus frequencygram (PSF)] and probability [peristimulus time histogram (PSTH)] to reexamine the time course of inhibitory SMU events that follow purely cutaneous (superficial sural) nerve stimulation. Results were then compared with similar data from TES. When compared with the reflex response to TES, sural nerve stimulation resulted in a longer onset latency of the primary inhibition and a weaker effect on SMU firing probability and rate. PSF also revealed that decreased SMU firing rates persisted during the excitation phase in SEMG, suggesting that the initial inhibition was more prolonged than previously reported. In a further study, the transcutaneous SEMG Achilles tendon response was compared with that from direct intratendon stimulation with insulated needle electrodes. This method should attenuate the SEMG response if it is wholly or partly dependent on cutaneous afferents. However, subcutaneous stimulation of the tendon produced similar components in the SEMG, confirming that cutaneous afferents made little or no contribution to the initial inhibition following TES.
- Peristimulus frequencygram
- Peristimulus time histogram
- Sural nerve stimulation
- Tendon electrical stimulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas