Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : This study investigated the influence of the torque produced by plantar flexor muscles on cortical and spinal excitability during lengthening and shortening voluntary contractions. To that purpose, modulations of motor-evoked potential (MEP) and Hoffmann (H) reflex were compared in the soleus (SOL) and medial gastrocnemius (MG) during anisometric submaximal and maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) of the plantar flexor muscles. For the submaximal shortening and lengthening contractions, the target torque was set at 50% of their respective MVC force. The results indicate that the amplitudes of both MEP and H-reflex responses, normalized to the maximal M wave, were significantly (P < 0.05) lower during lengthening compared with shortening submaximal contraction. For these two parameters, the reduction reached, respectively, 22.1 and 31.9% for the SOL and 34.5 and 29.3% for the MG. During MVC, normalized MEP and H reflex of the SOL were both reduced significantly by 19.9% (P < 0.05) and 29.9% (P < 0.001) during lengthening and shortening contraction, respectively, whereas no significant change (P > 0.05) was observed for MG. In addition, the silent period in the ongoing electromyogram (EMG) activity following the MEP was significantly (P < 0.01) briefer during lengthening than shortening contractions but did not differ (P > 0.05) between contraction intensities and muscles. Together, these results indicate that cortical and spinal mechanisms involved in the modulation of muscle activation during shortening and lengthening contractions differ between synergistic muscles according to the torque produced. Data further document previous studies reporting that the specific modulation of muscle activation during lengthening contraction is not torque dependent.