The effect of fatigue from exercise on human limb position sense

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We have previously shown, in a two-limb position-matching task in human subjects, that exercise of elbow flexors of one arm led the forearm to be perceived as more extended, while exercise of knee extensors of one leg led the lower leg to be perceived as more flexed. These findings led us to propose that exercise disturbs position sense because subjects perceive their exercised muscles as longer than they actually are. In order to obtain further support for this hypothesis, in the first experiment reported here, elbow extensors were exercised, with the prediction that the exercised arm would be perceived as more flexed after exercise. The experiment was carried out under three load conditions, with the exercised arm resting on a support, with it supporting its own weight and with it supporting a load of 10 of its voluntary contraction strength. For each condition, the forearm was perceived as more extended, not more flexed, after exercise. This result was confirmed in a second experiment on elbow flexors. Again, under all three conditions the exercised arm was perceived as more extended. To explore the distribution of the phenomenon, in a third experiment finger flexor muscles were exercised. This had no significant effect on position sense at the elbow. In a fourth experiment, position sense at the knee was measured after knee flexors of one leg were exercised and, as for knee extensors, it led subjects to perceive their exercised leg to be more flexed at the knee than it actually was. Putting all the observations together, it is concluded that while the influences responsible for the effects of exercise may have a peripheral origin, their effect on position sense occurs centrally, perhaps at the level of the sensorimotor cortex.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1369 - 1377
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Issue numberPt 8
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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