Human corticospinal-motoneuronal output is reduced with 5-HT2 receptor antagonism

Jacob R. Thorstensen, Janet L. Taylor, Justin J. Kavanagh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Animal models indicate that serotonin (5-HT) release onto motoneurons facilitates motor output, particularly during strong motor activities. However, evidence for 5-HT effects during human movement are limited. This study examined how antagonism of the 5-HT2 receptor, which is a 5-HT receptor that promotes motoneuron excitability, affects human movement. Ten healthy participants (24.2 ± 1.9 yr) ingested 8 mg of cyproheptadine (competitive 5-HT2 antagonist) in a double-blinded, placebo-controlled, repeated-measures design. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the motor cortex was used to elicit motor evoked potentials (MEPs) from biceps brachii. First, stimulus-response curves (90%–160% active motor threshold) were obtained during very weak elbow flexions (10% of maximal). Second, to determine if 5-HT effects are scaled to the intensity of muscle contraction, TMS at a fixed intensity was applied during elbow flexions of 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, and 100% of maximal. Cyproheptadine reduced the size of MEPs across the stimulus-response curves (P = 0.045). Notably, MEP amplitude was 22.3% smaller for the cyproheptadine condition for the strongest TMS intensity. In addition, cyproheptadine reduced maximal torque (P = 0.045), lengthened the biceps silent period during maximal elbow flexions (P = 0.037), and reduced superimposed twitch amplitude during moderate-intensity elbow flexions (P = 0.035). This study presents novel evidence that 5-HT2 receptors influence corticospinal-motoneuronal output, which was particularly evident when a large number of descending inputs to motoneurons were active. Although it is likely that antagonism of 5-HT2 receptors reduces motoneuron gain to ionotropic inputs, supraspinal mechanisms may have also contributed to the study findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1279-1288
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


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