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Temperature dependence of soleus H-reflex and M wave in young and older women

Dewhurst, Susan and Riches, Philip E. and Nimmo, Myra A. and De Vito, Giuseppe (2005) Temperature dependence of soleus H-reflex and M wave in young and older women. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, 94 (5-6). pp. 491-499. ISSN 1439-6319

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The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of altered local temperature on soleus H-reflex and compound muscle action potential (M wave) in young and older women. H-reflex and M wave responses were elicited in 10 young (22.3±3.3 years) and 10 older (72.5±3.2 years) women at three muscle temperatures: control (34.2±0.3°C), cold (31.3±0.5°C) and warm (37.1±0.2°C). H-reflex output, expressed as the ratio between maximal H-reflex and maximal M wave (Hmax/Mmax), was lower in the older, compared with the younger, group, regardless of temperature. In control temperature conditions, for example, the Hmax/Mmax ratio was 36.8±24% in the young and 25.4±20% in the older (P<0.05). Warming had no effect on the H-reflex output in either group, whilst cooling increased H-reflex output only in the younger group (+28%). In both groups, cooling increased (+5.3%), and warming decreased (-5.5%) the H-reflex latency. This study confirms that older individuals experience a reduced ability to modulate the reflex output in response to a perturbation. In a cold environment, for example, the lack of facilitation in the reflex output, along with a delayed reflex response could be critical to an older individual in responding to postural perturbations thus potentially compromising both static and dynamic balance.