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The effect of a prepulse stimulus on the EMG rebound following the cutaneous silent period

By H Kumru, E Opisso, J Valls-Solé and M Kofler


The cutaneous silent period (CSP) is a spinal inhibitory reflex mediated by Aδ fibres. The postinhibitory rebound of electromyographic (EMG) activity following the CSP has been mainly attributed to resynchronization of motoneurons, but the possibility of startle reflex activity contributing to the EMG burst has also been suggested. Several types of reflexes may be suppressed by a preceding weak stimulus – a phenomenon called prepulse inhibition (PPI). Our aim was to study whether PPI would diminish the EMG rebound, thereby providing further evidence for excitatory reflex activity contained within the postinhibitory EMG rebound following the CSP. Ten healthy subjects underwent CSP testing following noxious digit II stimulation in two conditions, with and without a prepulse applied to digit III. Rectified surface EMG recordings were obtained from right orbicularis oculi, sternocleidomastoid and thenar muscles of the dominant hand during thumb abduction with 25% of maximum force. The area of the EMG rebound and the EMG reflex responses in orbicularis oculi and sternocleidomastoid were significantly smaller in recordings where a prepulse stimulus was applied 100 ms before the stimulus as compared to control responses without prepulse. CSP onset and end latency, CSP duration, and the degree of EMG suppression were not influenced. Prepulses significantly reduced subjective discomfort as based on visual analog scale scores. Inhibition of the EMG rebound by prepulse stimulation supports the hypothesis that the excitatory EMG activity following the CSP contains not only resynchronization of motoneuronal firing, but also an excitatory reflex component. The most probable type of reflex seems to be a somatosensory startle reflex, a defence reaction which is generated in structures located in the caudal brainstem following an unexpected intense stimulus. Reduction of the discomfort associated with high-intensity electrical fingertip stimulation by a prepulse without affecting CSP parameters underlines the utility of PPI in the context of CSP testing

Topics: Neuroscience
Publisher: Blackwell Science Inc
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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