Single joint fatiguing exercise decreases long but not short-interval intracortical inhibition in older adults.
Ageing is accompanied by neuromuscular changes which may alter fatigue in older adults. These changes may include changes in corticospinal excitatory and inhibitory processes. Previous research has suggested that single joint fatiguing exercise decreases short-(SICI) and long-(LICI) interval intracortical inhibition in young adults. However, this is yet to be established in older adults. In 19 young (23 ± 4 years) and 18 older (69 ± 5 years) adults, SICI (2 ms interstimulus interval; ISI) and LICI (100 ms ISI) were measured in a resting first dorsal interosseous (FDI) muscle using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) before and after a 15 min sustained submaximal contraction at 25% of their maximum EMG. Subsequent ten 2-min contractions held at 25% EMG were also performed to sustain fatigue for a total of 30 min, while SICI and LICI were taken immediately after each contraction. There was no change in SICI post-fatiguing exercise compared to baseline in both young and older adults (P = 0.4). Although there was no change in LICI post-fatiguing exercise in younger adults (P = 1.0), LICI was attenuated in older adults immediately post-fatiguing exercise and remained attenuated post-fatigue (PF)1 and PF2 (P < 0.05). Contrary to previous studies, the lack of change in SICI and LICI in young adults following a sustained submaximal EMG contraction suggests that GABA modulation may be dependent on the type of fatiguing task performed. The reduction in LICI in older adults post-fatiguing exercise suggests an age-related decrease in GABA-mediated activity with sustained submaximal fatiguing exercise.