Reliability of a new measure of motoneuron excitability
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Objectlve:--This study examined the intraclass reliability· of different measures of the excitability of the Hoffmann reflex, derived from stimulus-response curves. The slope of the regression line of the H-reflex stimulus-response curve advocated by Funase et al. (1994) was also compared to the peak of the first derivative of the H-reflex stimulus-response curve (dHIdVmax), a new measure introduced in this investigation. A secondary purpose was to explore the possibility of mood as a covariate when measuring excitability of the H-reflex arc. Methods: The H-reflex amplitude at a stimulus intensity corresponding to 5% of the maximum M-wave (Mmax) is an established measure that was used as an additional basis of comparison. The H-reflex was elicited in the soleus for 24 subjects (12 males and 12 females) on five separate days. Vibration was applied to the Achilles tendon prior to stimulation to test the sensitivity of the measures on test day four. The means of five evoked potentials at each gradually increasing intensity, from below H-reflex threshold to above Mmax, were used to create both the H-reflex and M-wave stimulus response curves for each subject across test days. The mood of the subjects was assessed using the Subjective Exercise Experience Scale (SEES) prior to the stimulation protocol each day. Results: There was a modest decrease in all H-reflex measures from the first to third test day, but it was non-significant (P's>0.05). All measures of the H-reflex exhibited a profound reduction following vibration on test day four, and then returned to baseline levels on test day five (P's<0.05). The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) for H-reflex amplitude at 5% of Mmax was 0.85. The ICC for the slope of the regression line was 0.79 while it was 0.89 for dH/dVmax. Maximum M-wave amplitude had an ICC of 0.96 attesting to careful methodological controls. The SEES subscales of fatigue and psychological well-being remained unchanged IV across the five days. The psychological distress subscale (P<O.05), as well as the amplitude of the H-reflex_.at5% Mmax·(P<O.OI) showed a significant cubic trend across the live days. No significant correlation was found between Hs% and psychological distress (P>O.05). Conclusions: The peak of the first derivative of the H-reflex stimulus-response curve (dH/dVmax) was shown to have comparable reliability and sensitivity to other more established measures of excitability. Psychological distress and the amplitude of the H-reflex at 5% Mmax follow similar trends across days, however there was no significant correlation between the two measures. Significance: The proposed method appears to be a more robust measure ofH-reflex excitability than the other methods tested. As such it would be an advantageous method to apply in clinical and investigative settings. Additionally, the results suggest that the relationship between psychological distress and H-reflex amplitude should be investigated further.