Cortical implication in lower voluntary muscle force production in non-hypoxemic COPD patients


Recent studies have shown that muscle alterations cannot totally explain peripheral muscle weakness in COPD. Cerebral abnormalities in COPD are well documented but have never been implicated in muscle torque production. The purpose of this study was to assess the neural correlates of quadriceps torque control in COPD patients. Fifteen patients (FEV1 54.1±3.6% predicted) and 15 age- and sex-matched healthy controls performed maximal (MVCs) and submaximal (SVCs) voluntary contractions at 10, 30 and 50% of the maximal voluntary torque of the knee extensors. Neural activity was quantified with changes in functional near-infrared spectroscopy oxyhemoglobin (fNIRS-HbO) over the contralateral primary motor (M1), primary somatosensory (S1), premotor (PMC) and prefrontal (PFC) cortical areas. In parallel to the lower muscle torque, the COPD patients showed lower increase in HbO than healthy controls over the M1 (p<0.05), PMC (p<0.05) and PFC areas (p<0.01) during MVCs. In addition, they exhibited lower HbO changes over the M1 (p<0.01), S1 (p<0.05) and PMC (p<0.01) areas during SVCs at 50% of maximal torque and altered motor control characterized by higher torque fluctuations around the target. The results show that low muscle force production is found in a context of reduced motor cortex activity, which is consistent with central nervous system involvement in COPD muscle weakness. © 2014 Alexandre et al.