The contour of the postsynaptic potential (PSP) produced in a neurone by an afferent volley can be derived from the contour of the post-stimulus time histogram (PSTH) of that neurone when it is discharging rhythmically. In the present study the PSTH of the firing of individual soleus motor units after stimulation of the popliteal or peroneal nerve was used to explore the effects of extensor and flexor group I afferent volleys on the excitability of single soleus motoneurones in man. Extensor group I volleys resulted in an early peak of increased impulse density in the PSTH of 75% of soleus motoneurones. The latency suggests an analogy with the Ia EPSP. The mean duration of the peak of increased impulse density, equivalent to the rise time of the EPSP, was 3.6 ms. Flexor group I volleys result in a period of reduced impulse density in the PSTH of five out of nine soleus motoneurones. The latency suggests an analogy with the Ia IPSP. We conclude that this method could be used to explore the afferent connections to single motoneurones in man and to derive some of the characteristics of the postsynaptic potentials from a variety of afferent nerve fibres in single human motoneurones.
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