In this study, we investigated the somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) during the preparatory period of self-initiated plantar flexion at different force levels of muscle contraction and elucidated the mechanism behind the centrifugal gating effect on somatosensory information processing. We recorded SEPs following stimulation of the tibial nerve at the popliteal fossa during the preparatory period of a 20% maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) and 50% MVC. The preparatory period was divided into two sub-periods based on the components of movement-related cortical potentials, the negative slope (NS sub-period) and the Bereitschaftspotential (BP sub-period). The subjects were instructed to concentrate on the movement and not to pay attention to the continuous electrical stimulation. Pre-movement SEPs were averaged separately during the two sub-periods under each MVC condition. The mean amplitudes of BP and NS were larger during the 50% MVC than the 20% MVC. As for the components of SEPs, during the NS sub-period the amplitude of P30 under the 50% MVC and N40 under both conditions were significantly smaller than that in the stationary sequence, and N40 amplitude was significantly smaller during the 50% MVC than the 20% MVC. During the BP sub-period, the amplitude of P30 and N40 during the 50% MVC was significantly smaller than during the stationary sequence, while it was not significantly different between the 20% and 50% MVCs. In conclusion, the extent of the centrifugal gating effect on SEPs was dependent on the activities of motor-related areas, which generated the NS and BP.
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