Journal of Physiology
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellowship within the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) at Deakin University / Open access publishing facilitated by Deakin University, as part of the Wiley - Deakin University agreement via the Council of Australian University Librarians
Nervous system deterioration is a primary driver of age-related motor impairment. The motor neurones, which act as the interface between the central nervous system and the muscles, play a crucial role in amplifying excitatory synaptic input to produce the desired motor neuronal firing output. For this, they utilise their ability to generate persistent (long-lasting) depolarising currents that increase cell excitability, and both amplify and prolong the output activity of motor neurones for a given synaptic input. Modulation of these persistent inward currents (PICs) contributes to the motor neurones’ capacities to attain the required firing frequencies and rapidly modulate them to competently complete most tasks. Thus, PICs are crucial for adequate movement generation. Impairments in intrinsic motor neurone properties can impact motor unit firing capacity, with convincing evidence indicating that the PIC contribution to motor neurone firing is reduced in older adults. Indeed, this could be an important mechanism underpinning the age-related reductions in strength and physical function. Furthermore, resistance training has emerged as a promising intervention to counteract age-associated PIC impairments, with changes in PICs being correlated with improvements in muscular strength and physical function after training. In this review, we present the current knowledge of the PIC magnitude decline during ageing and discuss whether reduced serotonergic and noradrenergic input onto the motor neurones, voltage-gated calcium channel dysfunction or inhibitory input impairments are candidates that: (i) explain age-related reductions in the PIC contribution to motor neurone firing and (ii) underpin the enhanced PIC contribution to motor neurone firing following resistance training in older adults. (Figure presented.).
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