Ipsilateral corticomotor responses are confined to the homologous muscle following cross-education of muscular strength

Joel Mason, Ashlyn K. Frazer, Deanna M. Horvath, Alan J. Pearce, Janne Avela, Glyn Howatson, Dawson J. Kidgell

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Cross-education of strength occurs when strength-training 1 limb increases the strength of the untrained limb and is restricted to the untrained homologous muscle. Cortical circuits located ipsilateral to the trained limb might be involved. We used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to determine the corticomotor responses from the untrained homologous (biceps brachii) and nonhomologous (flexor carpi radialis) muscle following strength-training of the right elbow flexors. Motor evoked potentials were recorded from the untrained left biceps brachii and flexor carpi radialis during a submaximal contraction from 20 individuals (10 women, 10 men; aged 18-35 years; training group, n = 10; control group, n = 10) before and after 3 weeks of strength-training the right biceps brachii at 80% of 1-repetition maximum. Recruitment-curves for corticomotor excitability and inhibition of the untrained homologous and nonhomologous muscle were constructed and assessed by examining the area under the recruitment curve. Strength-training increased strength of the trained elbow flexors (29%), resulting in an 18% increase in contralateral strength of the untrained elbow flexors (P < 0.0001). The trained wrist flexors increased by 19%, resulting in a 12% increase in strength of the untrained wrist flexors (P = 0.005). TMS showed increased corticomotor excitability and decreased corticomotor inhibition for the untrained homologous muscle (P < 0.05); however, there were no changes in the untrained nonhomologous muscle (P > 0.05). These findings show that the cross-education of muscular strength is spatially distributed; however, the neural adaptations are confined to the motor pathway ipsilateral to the untrained homologous agonist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-22
Number of pages12
JournalApplied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Agonist
  • Cross-activation
  • Excitability
  • Inhibition
  • Synergist

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