Changes in motor evoked potential (MEP) amplitude, post-MEP silent period duration, and interpolated twitch torque were measured using transcranial magnetic (TMS) and electrical (TES) stimulation during a 20% maximum voluntary contraction of the elbow flexors sustained to exhaustion. TMS- and TES-induced MEP amplitude increased progressively over the contraction period up until the point of exhaustion. The TMS-induced silent period was prolonged only during the second half of the contraction period, the time course being different from that of the MEP responses, whereas the TES-induced silent period did not change. The findings indicate that corticomotor excitability increases during a sustained submaximal voluntary contraction and that, as fatigue develops, there is a progressive buildup of intracortical inhibition. This may represent a mechanism whereby corticomotor output is maintained at an appropriate level to preserve optimal motor unit firing frequencies during a fatiguing contraction
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