Time course of changes in corticospinal excitability after short-term forearm/hand immobilization

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The short-term joint immobilization induces a decrease of corticospinal excitability; however, detailed time course of the immobilization-induced central nervous system changes and their extent have not yet been clarified. To evaluate the time course of changes in corticospinal excitability during forearm/hand immobilization for 24 h and investigate the effect on muscle strength, adhesive casting tape was used to immobilize the nondominant forearm/hand. The amplitude of the motor-evoked potential of the flexor pollicis brevis muscle induced by transcranial magnetic stimulation was measured during immobilization and after cast removal. The muscle strength was evaluated after the termination of immobilization. The resting motor-evoked potential recorded from flexor pollicis brevis muscle showed a significant decrease 3 h after initiation of immobilization and gradually declined further until the end of immobilization. It then increased over 2 h after cast removal, but was still significantly below baseline. However, no significant difference from baseline was observed at 3 h. Both pinch power and integrated electromyogram were significantly reduced by immobilization, and then gradually returned to baseline after the cast was removed. These results indicate that short-term forearm/hand immobilization rapidly reduces corticospinal excitability, and this change is rapidly reversed after resumption of movement.

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