Core and skin temperature influences on the surface electromyographic responses to an isometric force and position task

Nico A Coletta, Matthew M Mallette, David A Gabriel, Christopher J Tyler, Stephen S Cheung

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The large body of work demonstrating hyperthermic impairment of neuromuscular function has utilized maximal isometric contractions, but extrapolating these findings to whole-body exercise and submaximal, dynamic contractions may be problematic. We isolated and compared core and skin temperature influences on an isometric force task versus a position task requiring dynamic maintenance of joint angle. Surface electromyography (sEMG) was measured on the flexor carpi radialis at 60% of baseline maximal voluntary contraction while either pushing against a rigid restraint (force task) or while maintaining a constant wrist angle and supporting an equivalent inertial load (position task). Twenty participants performed each task at 0.5°C rectal temperature (Tre) intervals while being passively heated from 37.1±0.3°C to ≥1.5°C Tre and then cooled to 37.8±0.3°C, permitting separate analyses of core versus skin temperature influences. During a 3-s contraction, trend analysis revealed a quadratic trend that peaked during hyperthermia for root-mean-square (RMS) amplitude during the force task. In contrast, RMS amplitude during the position task remained stable with passive heating, then rapidly increased with the initial decrease in skin temperature at the onset of passive cooling (p = 0.010). Combined hot core and hot skin elicited shifts toward higher frequencies in the sEMG signal during the force task (p = 0.003), whereas inconsistent changes in the frequency spectra occurred for the position task. Based on the patterns of RMS amplitude in response to thermal stress, we conclude that core temperature was the primary thermal afferent influencing neuromuscular response during a submaximal force task, with minimal input from skin temperature. However, skin temperature was the primary thermal afferent during a position task with minimal core temperature influence. Therefore, temperature has a task-dependent impact on neuromuscular responses.

© 2018 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2018

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