Task dependent effects of baroreceptor unloading on motor cortical and corticospinal pathways
Buharin, Vasiliy E.
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Corticospinal and intracortical excitability are excitability measures of the central nervous system responsible for motor generation, and are studied for their contribution to fine motor skill execution and learning. Since the need for proper execution of fine motor skills is ever-present and necessary for everyday life, identification of physiological pathways that may disrupt or enhance corticospinal and intracortical excitability is an important research topic. This thesis investigates the effects of baroreceptor unloading on corticospinal and intracortical excitability during various motor tasks. Baroreceptor unloading is a physiological response to common hemodynamic stress (e.g. hypovolemia and orthostasis). The motor tasks investigated are complete muscular relaxation, individual isometric low-force contraction of a muscle, and an isometric co-contraction of a muscle in a joint-stabilizing task. The effects of baroreceptor unloading on corticospinal and intracortical excitability appear to be very task specific. The results are discussed in view of available pharmacological and physiological research, and potential neural pathways for the observed effects are suggested. The overall conclusion is that baroreceptor unloading increases corticospinal excitability and decreases intracortical inhibition in a resting muscle, does not produce any observable effects during individual muscle activity, and decreases corticospinal excitability during joint-stabilizing co-contraction.