Leg muscle force generated by electrical stimulation following spinal cord injury in humans

The data for this research paper was collected by HL Gerrits as part of her PhD programme into muscle tendon function following spinal cord injury in humans. It was completed under the supervision of Anthony Sargeant.

Selected contractile properties and fatigability of the quadriceps muscle were studied in seven spinal cord-injured (SCI) and 13 able-bodied control (control) individuals. The SCI muscles demonstrated faster rates of contraction and relaxation than did control muscles and extremely large force oscillation amplitudes in the 10-Hz signal (65 +/- 22% in SCI versus 23 +/- 8% in controls). In addition, force loss and slowing of relaxation following repeated fatiguing contractions were greater in SCI compared with controls.

The faster contractile properties and greater fatigability of the SCI muscles are in agreement with a characteristic predominance of fast glycolytic muscle fibers. Unexpectedly, the SCI muscles exhibited a force-frequency relationship shifted to the left, most likely as the result of relatively large twitch amplitudes. The results indicate that the contractile properties of large human locomotory muscles can be characterized using the approach described and that the transformation to faster properties consequent upon changes in contractile protein expression following SCI can be assessed. These measurements may be useful to optimize stimulation characteristics for functional electrical stimulation and to monitor training effects induced by electrical stimulation during rehabilitation of paralyzed muscles

Organised exercise programmes are beneficial in the treatment of depression

Dr David Veale (now Professor) was the psychiatrist working at the Royal Free Hospital, London responsible for this research. Professor Anthony Sargeant and Professor Anthony Mann were the consultants for these studies. The results indicate that many patients with depression benefited from organised programmes of exercise alongside normal treatment protocols.
Journal of The Royal Society of Medicine
J R Soc Med. 1992 Sep;85(9):541-4

Two clinical trials have been conducted in a sample of depressed patients to determine whether the addition of an aerobic exercise programme to their usual treatment improved outcome after 12 weeks. In the first trial, an aerobic exercise group had a superior outcome compared with a control group in terms of trait anxiety and a standard psychiatric interview. A second trial was then conducted to compare an aerobic exercise programme with low intensity exercise.

Both groups showed improvement but there were no significant differences between the groups. In neither trial was there any correlation between the extent of change in the subjects’ physical fitness due to aerobic exercise and the extent of the improvement of psychiatric scores.

Growth related changes in muscle properties


The effect of growth on the dynamic performance of rat medial gastrocnemius muscle was studied. From approximately 1.5 to 5 months of age specific force increased by 18%.

Reductions were found in both optimal stimulation frequency (from 120 to 100 Hz) and optimal shortening velocity (by 16%) indicating that the fibres became slower. Specific power did not change during growth but was obtained at a lower shortening velocity. Possible mechanisms for the observed changes are discussed

Fatigue of human muscle

As part of her PhD research the very talented and conscientious Anita Beelen collected this data under the direction of Professor Anthony J Sargeant. It was one of the first studies indicating how human muscle fatigue could be due to the selective fatigue of a relatively small population of muscle fibres.
Journal of Applied Physiology
J Appl Physiol. 1991 Dec;71(6):2332-7

The effect of fatigue as a result of a standard submaximal dynamic exercise on maximal short-term power output generated at different contraction velocities was studied in humans. Six subjects performed 25-s maximal efforts on an isokinetic cycle ergometer at five different pedaling rates (60, 75, 90, 105, and 120 rpm). Measurements of maximal power output were made under control conditions [after 6 min of cycling at 30% maximal O2 uptake (VO2max)] and after fatiguing exercise that consisted of 6 min of cycling at 90% VO2max with a pedaling rate of 90 rpm.

Compared with control values, maximal peak power measured after fatiguing exercise was significantly reduced by 23 +/- 19, 28 +/- 11, and 25 +/- 11% at pedaling rates of 90, 105, and 120 rpm, respectively. Reductions in maximum peak power of 11 +/- 8 and 14 +/- 8% at 60 and 75 rpm, respectively, were not significant. The rate of decline in peak power during the 25-s control measurement was least at 60 rpm (5.1 +/- 2.3 W/s) and greatest at 120 rpm (26.3 +/- 13.9 W/s). After fatiguing exercise, the rate of decline in peak power at pedaling rates of 105 and 120 rpm decreased significantly from 21.5 +/- 9.0 and 26.3 +/- 13.9 W/s to 10.0 +/- 7.3 and 13.3 +/- 6.9 W/s, respectively. These experiments indicate that fatigue induced by submaximal dynamic exercise results in a velocity-dependent effect on muscle power. It is suggested that the reduced maximal power at the higher velocities was due to a selective effect of fatigue on the faster fatigue-sensitive fibers of the active muscle mass.

Cold muscles results in higher lactate levels at the beginning of exercise in humans

Research carried out by Anita Beelen as part of her programme of PhD programme under the direction of Professor Anthony Sargeant.It shows that compared to normal conditions when muscle is cold there is an initially higher level of lactate in the blood due to relative hypoxic muscle consequent upon cold induced vasoconstriction. Subsequently as the muscle warms the lactate level drops but its removal requires elevated oxygen uptake.
European Journal of Applied Physiology
Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1991;63(5):387-92

The effect of low muscle temperature on the response to dynamic exercise was studied in six healthy men who performed 42 min of exercise on a cycle ergometer at an intensity of 70% of their maximal O2 uptake. Experiments were performed under control conditions, that is, from rest at room temperature, and following 45 min standing with legs immersed in a water bath at 12 degrees C. The water bath reduced quadriceps muscle temperature (at 3 cm depth) from 36.4 (SD 0.5) degrees C to 30.5 (SD 1.7) degrees C. Following cooling, exercise heart rate was initially lower, the mean difference ranged from 13 (SD 4) beats.min-1 after 6 min of exercise, to 4 (SD 2) beats.min-1 after 24 min of exercise. Steady-state oxygen uptake was consistently higher (0.2 l.min-1). However, no difference could be discerned in the kinetics of oxygen uptake at the onset of exercise. During exercise after cooling a significantly higher peak value was found for the blood lactate concentration compared to that under control conditions. The peak values were both reached after approximately 9 min of exercise. After 42 min of exercise the blood lactate concentrations did not differ significantly, indicating a faster rate of removal during exercise after cooling. We interpreted these observations as reflecting a relatively higher level of muscle hypoxia at the onset of exercise as a consequence of a cold-induced vasoconstriction. The elevated steady-state oxygen uptake may in part have been accounted for by the energetic costs of removal of the extra lactate released into the blood consequent upon initial tissue hypoxia

Effect of shortening velocity on work output and energy cost of muscle contractions

Research carried out by Margriet Lodder as part of her PhD which was supervised by Professor Tony Sargeant and Dr Arnold de Haan
European Journal of Applied Physiology
Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1991;62(6):430-5

The effect of shortening velocity on the reduction in work output, energy consumption and efficiency during repetitive contractions has been determined in rat extensor digitorum longus muscle. Muscles in situ (with occluded blood flow, 37 degrees C) were stimulated to perform 40 successive contractions (at 4 Hz) with a total duration of the exercise period of 10 s and shortening velocities of either 25, 50 or 75 mm.s-1 (whole muscle-tendon complex).

Care was taken that work output during the shortening phase of the first contraction was the same for the different velocities used. Total work output of the 40 contractions was not significantly different between the three groups with different shortening velocities; nor was there a significant difference in the high-energy phosphate consumption over this 10-s exercise period. However, when the ratio of total work output and total energy consumption was calculated a significantly higher efficiency (25-30% in comparison with the efficiency of the other two velocities) was found with the shortening velocity of 50 mm.s-1. There was no significant difference in efficiency between shortening velocities of 25 and 75 mm.s-1. This suggests that with this protocol efficiency showed a velocity-dependent pattern that may have the same shape as the power/velocity curve. Whereas total work output during the 10-s exercise period was not significantly different between the velocities studied, the time course of the changes in work output was quite different. With shortening velocities of 50 and 75 mm.s-1 work output initially increased by maximally 6% and 12% respectively in contrast to a steady level in the contractions with a velocity of 25 mm.s-1.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Effect of pre-stretching muscle on fatigue

European Journal of Applied Physiology
Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1991;62(4):268-273

In activities such as running, many muscles of the lower extremities appear to be actively stretched before they are allowed to shorten. In this study we investigated the effect of an active pre-stretch on the fatigability of muscles. Thus muscle contractions were compared in which shortening was preceded by an active isometric phase or by an active stretch.

Rat medial gastrocnemius muscle-tendon complexes (with arrested blood flow) performed a series of ten repeated contractions (1.s-1) with either an active stretch or an isometric phase preceding the shortening. Contraction duration (0.45 s), and shortening duration (0.3 s), distance (6 mm) and velocity (20 mm.s-1) were the same in both types of contraction. Work output during the ten shortening phases was approximately 40% higher in the contractions with an active pre-stretch; in contrast, high-energy phosphate utilization was similar. Over the ten repeated contractions reduction of work output during the shortening phases of both types of contraction was similar in absolute terms (approx. 9.5 mJ). It is suggested that all the extra work performed during the shortening phases after a pre-stretch originated from sources other than cross-bridge cycling, which are hardly affected by fatigue. However, reduction of work output in relative terms, which is how the reduction is often expressed in voluntary exercise, was less after a pre-stretch (26% vs 32%), giving the impression of protection against fatigue by an active pre-stretch.