Excitatory drive to spinal motoneurones is necessary for serotonin to modulate motoneurone excitability via 5‐HT2 receptors in humans

Tyler Henderson, Janet L. Taylor, Jacob Thorstensen, Justin Kavanagh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Serotonin modulates corticospinal excitability, motoneurone firing rates and contractile strength via 5-HT 2 receptors. However, the effects of these receptors on cortical and motoneurone excitability during voluntary contractions have not been explored in humans. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate how 5-HT 2 antagonism affects corticospinal and motoneuronal excitability with and without descending drive to motoneurones. Twelve individuals (aged 24 ± 4 years) participated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, whereby the 5-HT 2 antagonist cyproheptadine was administered. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was delivered to the motor cortex to produce motor evoked potentials (MEPs), and electrical stimulation at the cervicomedullary junction was used to generate cervicomedullary motor evoked potentials (CMEPs) in the biceps brachii at rest and during a range of submaximal elbow flexions. Evoked potentials were also obtained after a conditioning TMS pulse to produce conditioned MEPs and CMEPs (100 ms inter-stimulus interval). 5-HT 2 antagonism reduced maximal torque (p < 0.001), and compared to placebo, reduced unconditioned MEP amplitude at rest (p = 0.003), conditioned MEP amplitude at rest (p = 0.033) and conditioned MEP amplitude during contractions (p = 0.020). 5-HT 2 antagonism also increased unconditioned CMEP amplitude during voluntary contractions (p = 0.041) but not at rest. Although 5-HT 2 antagonism increased long-interval intracortical inhibition, net corticospinal excitability was unaffected during voluntary contractions. Given that spinal motoneurone excitability was only affected when descending drive to motoneurones was present, the current study indicates that excitatory drive is necessary for 5-HT 2 receptors to regulate motoneurone excitability but not intracortical circuits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-35
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes


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