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Perimenopausal women show modulation of excitatory and inhibitory neuromuscular mechanisms

Heidi Pesonen  1 , Eija K Laakkonen  2   3 , Pekka Hautasaari  2 , Pauliina Aukee  4 , Vuokko Kovanen  2   3 , et al

BMC Womens Health. 2021 Mar 31;21(1):133.doi: 10.1186/s12905-021-01275-8.

Background: Menopausal transition exposes women to an early decline in muscle force and motor function. Changes in muscle quality and function, especially in lower limbs, are crucial, as they expose individuals to increased risk of falls. To elucidate some of the related neuromuscular mechanisms, we investigated cortical inhibition and peripheral muscle twitch force potentiation in women during the early and late stages of perimenopause.

 Methods: Participants were 63 women aged 48-55 years categorized as early (EP, n = 25) or late (LP, n = 38) perimenopausal according to serum follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels and menstrual diaries. EP women had an irregular menstrual cycle and FSH < 25 IU/L, while LP women had an irregular cycle and > 25 IU/L. We examined motor evoked potential (MEP) and silent period (SP) elicited by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), in the tibialis anterior muscle at 20%, 40%, and 60% of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) levels, and twitch force potentiation in plantar flexors.

Results: EP group showed a longer SP duration in 40% MVC condition and larger motor evoked potential amplitude in 20% MVC condition compared to the LP group. No group difference was detected in twitch force potentiation; however, it correlated negatively with FSH levels. Other factors, such as age, height, body mass index, or physical activity did not explain group differences.

Conclusions: Our preliminary results indicate subtle modulation in both TMS-induced inhibitory and excitatory mechanisms and twitch force potentiation in women already in the late perimenopausal stage. This suggests that the reduction of estrogens may have an accelerating role in the aging process of neuromuscular control.