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Motor unit firing pattern, synchrony and coherence in a deafferented patient

Abstract : The firing of spinal motoneurons (MNs) is controlled continuously by inputs from muscle, joint and skin receptors. Besides altering MN synaptic drive, the removal of these inputs is liable to alter the synaptic noise and, thus, the variability of their tonic activity. Sensory afferents, which are a major source of common and/or synchronized inputs shared by several MNs, may also contribute to the coupling in the time and frequency domains (synchrony and coherence, respectively) observed when cross-correlation and coherence analyses are applied to the discharges of MN pairs. Surprisingly, no consistent changes in firing frequency, nor in synchrony and coherence were reported to affect the activity of 3 pairs of motor units (MUs) tested in a case of sensory polyradiculoneuropathy (SPRNP), leading to an irreversible loss of large diameter sensory afferents (Farmer et al., 1993). Such a limited sample, however, precludes a definite conclusion about the actual impact that a chronic loss of muscle and cutaneous afferents may have on the firing properties of human MUs. To address this issue, the firing pattern of 92 MU pairs was analyzed at low contraction force in a case of SPRNP leading similarly to a permanent loss of proprioceptive inputs. Compared with 8 control subjects, MNs in this patient tended to discharge with slightly shorter inter-spike intervals but with greater variability. Synchronous firing tended to occur more frequently with a tighter coupling in the patient. There was no consistent change in coherence in the 15–30 Hz frequency range attributed to the MN corticospinal drive, but a greater coherence was observed below 5 Hz and between 30 and 60 Hz in the patient. The possible origins of the greater irregularity in MN tonic discharges, the tighter coupling of the synchronous firing and the changes in coherence observed in the absence of proprioceptive inputs are discussed.
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Annie Schmied, Robert Forget, Jean-Pierre Vedel. Motor unit firing pattern, synchrony and coherence in a deafferented patient. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Frontiers, 2014, 8 (746), ⟨10.3389/fnhum.2014.00746⟩. ⟨hal-01244942⟩

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