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Reviews in the Neurosciences

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Determining the early corticospinal-motoneuronal responses to strength training: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Joel Mason
  • Department of Physiotherapy, School of Primary and Allied Health Care, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Frankston, Victoria 3199, Australia
  • Other articles by this author:
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/ Ashlyn K. Frazer
  • Department of Physiotherapy, School of Primary and Allied Health Care, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Frankston, Victoria 3199, Australia
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/ Alan J. Pearce
  • Department of Rehabilitation, Nutrition and Sport, School of Allied Health, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
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/ Alicia M. Goodwill / Glyn Howatson
  • Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK
  • Water Research Group, School of Environmental Sciences and Development, Northwest University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
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/ Shapour Jaberzadeh
  • Department of Physiotherapy, School of Primary and Allied Health Care, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Frankston, Victoria 3199, Australia
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/ Dawson J. Kidgell
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Physiotherapy, School of Primary and Allied Health Care, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Frankston, Victoria 3199, Australia
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Published Online: 2018-12-25 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2018-0054


Several studies have used transcranial magnetic stimulation to probe the corticospinal-motoneuronal responses to a single session of strength training; however, the findings are inconsistent. This systematic review and meta-analysis examined whether a single bout of strength training affects the excitability and inhibition of intracortical circuits of the primary motor cortex (M1) and the corticospinal-motoneuronal pathway. A systematic review was completed, tracking studies between January 1990 and May 2018. The methodological quality of studies was determined using the Downs and Black quality index. Data were synthesised and interpreted from meta-analysis. Nine studies (n=107) investigating the acute corticospinal-motoneuronal responses to strength training met the inclusion criteria. Meta-analyses detected that after strength training compared to control, corticospinal excitability [standardised mean difference (SMD), 1.26; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.88, 1.63; p<0.0001] and intracortical facilitation (ICF) (SMD, 1.60; 95% CI, 0.18, 3.02; p=0.003) were increased. The duration of the corticospinal silent period was reduced (SMD, −17.57; 95% CI, −21.12, −14.01; p=0.00001), but strength training had no effect on the excitability of the intracortical inhibitory circuits [short-interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) SMD, 1.01; 95% CI, −1.67, 3.69; p=0.46; long-interval intracortical inhibition (LICI) SMD, 0.50; 95% CI, −1.13, 2.13; p=0.55]. Strength training increased the excitability of corticospinal axons (SMD, 4.47; 95% CI, 3.45, 5.49; p<0.0001). This systematic review and meta-analyses revealed that the acute neural changes to strength training involve subtle changes along the entire neuroaxis from the M1 to the spinal cord. These findings suggest that strength training is a clinically useful tool to modulate intracortical circuits involved in motor control.

Keywords: corticospinal; cortical facilitation; cortical inhibition; motor evoked potential; strength training


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About the article

Corresponding author: Dr. Dawson J. Kidgell, Department of Physiotherapy, School of Primary and Allied Health Care, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, PO Box 527, Frankston, Victoria 3199, Australia

Received: 2018-05-29

Accepted: 2018-08-30

Published Online: 2018-12-25

Citation Information: Reviews in the Neurosciences, 20180054, ISSN (Online) 2191-0200, ISSN (Print) 0334-1763, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/revneuro-2018-0054.

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