Effects of exercise training on α-motoneurons

P. Gardiner*, Y. Dai, C. J. Heckman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Evidence is presented that one locus of adaptation in the "neural adaptations to training" is at the level of the α-motoneurons. With increased voluntary activity, these neurons show evidence of dendrite restructuring, increased protein synthesis, increased axon transport of proteins, enhanced neuromuscular transmission dynamics, and changes in electrophysiological properties. The latter include hyperpolarization of the resting membrane potential and voltage threshold, increased rate of action potential development, and increased amplitude of the afterhyperpolarization following the action potential. Many of these changes demonstrate intensity-related adaptations and are in the opposite direction under conditions in which chronic activity is reduced. A five-compartment model of rat motoneurons that innervate fast and slow muscle fibers (termed "fast" and "slow" motoneurons in this paper), including 10 active ion conductances, was used to attempt to reproduce exercise training-induced adaptations in electrophysiological properties. The results suggest that adaptations in α-motoneurons with exercise training may involve alterations in ion conductances, which may, in turn, include changes in the gene expression of the ion channel subunits, which underlie these conductances. Interestingly, the acute neuromodulatory effects of monoamines on motoneuron properties, which would be a factor during acute exercise as these monoaminergic systems are activated, appear to be in the opposite direction to changes measured in endurance-trained motoneurons that are at rest. It may be that regular increases in motoneuronal excitability during exercise via these monoaminergic systems in fact render the motoneurons less excitable when at rest. More research is required to establish the relationships between exercise training, resting and exercise motoneuron excitability, ion channel modulation, and the effects of neuromodulators.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1228-1236
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2006


  • Electrophysiology
  • Modeling
  • Neuromodulation
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of exercise training on α-motoneurons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this