High-frequency neuromuscular electrical stimulation (HF NMES) induces muscular contractions through neural mechanisms that partially match physiological motor control. Indeed, a portion of the contraction arises from central mechanisms, whereby spinal motoneurons are recruited through the evoked sensory volley. However, the involvement of supraspinal centers of motor control during such stimulation remains poorly understood. Therefore, we tested whether a single HF NMES session applied to the upper limb influences interhemispheric inhibition (IHI) from left to right motor cortex (M1). Using noninvasive electrophysiology and transcranial magnetic stimulation, we evaluated the effects of a 10-min HF NMES session applied to a right wrist flexor on spinal and corticospinal excitability of both arms, as well as IHI, in healthy subjects. HF NMES induced a rapid decline in spinal excitability on the right stimulated side that closely matched the modulation of evoked force during the protocol. More importantly, IHI was significantly increased by HF NMES, and this increase was correlated to the electromyographic activity within the contralateral homologous muscle. Our study highlights a new neurophysiological mechanism, suggesting that HF NMES has an effect on the excitability of the transcallosal pathway probably to regulate the lateralization of the motor output. The data suggest that HF NMES can modify the hemispheric balance between both M1 areas. These findings provide important novel perspectives for the implementation of HF NMES in sport training and neurorehabilitation.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY: High-frequency neuromuscular electrical stimulation (HF NMES) induces muscular contractions that partially match physiological motor control. Here, we tested whether HF NMES applied to the upper limb influences interhemispheric inhibition. Our results show that interhemispheric inhibition was increased after HF NMES and that this increase was correlated to the electromyographic activity within the contralateral homologous muscle. This opens up original perspectives for the implementation of HF NMES in sport training and neurorehabilitation.