Intrinsic motor neuron excitability is increased after resistance training in older adults

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Neurophysiology





First Page


Last Page


PubMed ID



American Physiological Society


School of Medical and Health Sciences / Centre for Human Performance




Orssatto, L. B., Rodrigues, P., Mackay, K., Blazevich, A. J., Borg, D. N., Souza, T. R. D., ... & Trajano, G. S. (2023). Intrinsic motor neuron excitability is increased after resistance training in older adults. Journal of Neurophysiology, 129(3), 635-650.


This study investigated the effects of high-intensity resistance training on estimates of the motor neuron persistent inward current (PIC) in older adults. Seventeen participants (68.5 ± 2.8 yr) completed a 2-wk nonexercise control period followed by 6 wk of resistance training. Surface electromyographic signals were collected with two 32-channel electrodes placed over soleus to investigate motor unit discharge rates. Paired motor unit analysis was used to calculate delta frequency (ΔF) as an estimate of PIC amplitudes during 1) triangular-shaped contractions to 20% of maximum torque capacity and 2) trapezoidal- and triangular-shaped contractions to 20% and 40% of maximum torque capacity, respectively, to understand their ability to modulate PICs as contraction intensity increases. Maximal strength and functional capacity tests were also assessed. For the 20% triangular-shaped contractions, ΔF [0.58-0.87 peaks per second (pps); P ≤ 0.015] and peak discharge rates (0.78-0.99 pps; P ≤ 0.005) increased after training, indicating increased PIC amplitude. PIC modulation also improved after training. During the control period, mean ΔF differences between 20% trapezoidal-shaped and 40% triangular-shaped contractions were 0.09-0.18 pps (P = 0.448 and 0.109, respectively), which increased to 0.44 pps (P < 0.001) after training. Also, changes in ΔF showed moderate to very large correlations (r = 0.39-0.82) with changes in peak discharge rates and broad measures of motor function. Our findings indicate that increased motor neuron excitability is a potential mechanism underpinning training-induced improvements in motor neuron discharge rate, strength, and motor function in older adults. This increased excitability is likely mediated by enhanced PIC amplitudes, which are larger at higher contraction intensities.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Resistance training elicited important alterations in soleus intrinsic motor neuronal excitability, likely mediated by enhanced persistent inward current (PIC) amplitude, in older adults. Estimates of PICs increased after the training period, accompanied by an enhanced ability to increase PIC amplitudes at higher contraction intensities. Our data also suggest that changes in PIC contribution to self-sustained discharging may contribute to increases in motor neuron discharge rates, maximal strength, and functional capacity in older adults after resistance training.



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