Changes in voluntary torque and electromyographic activity following oral baclofen

T. George Hornby*, C. J. Heckman, Richard L. Harvey, W. Zev Rymer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The consequences of baclofen intake on voluntary motor behaviors remain unclear. We studied the effects of single oral doses of baclofen on voluntary, isometric knee extension torques and surface and single motor unit (MU) electromyographic (EMG) activity from the vastus lateralis in 11 individuals without neurological injury. Examination of submaximal to maximal contractions of varying duration performed pre- and post-baclofen ingestion revealed significant decreases in maximal knee torques and EMG magnitude, accompanied by an increase in slope of the torque-EMG relation. A decreased slope of the torque-MU firing rate relation was also demonstrated post-baclofen, but without changes in minimal firing rates or recruitment forces. During sustained contractions at ≤25% of maximal voluntary torque elicited after baclofen ingestion, increased EMG activity was observed without significant differences in MU firing rates. Our results demonstrate a clear reduction in the maximal torque-generating ability following baclofen. Specific changes in MU firing patterns indicate that weakness may be due partly to reduced motoneuronal excitability, although use of MU discharge patterns to assess these effects is limited in its sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)784-795
Number of pages12
JournalMuscle and Nerve
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2004


  • Antispastic agents
  • Motoneuron
  • Motor unit
  • Spasticity
  • Strength

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Physiology (medical)


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