Appl Ergon. 2022 May;101:103691. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2022.103691. Epub 2022 Jan 25.


Stress impairs motor performance, which is exacerbated with age. Stress also impairs brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, which communicates with the motor areas of the brain to regulate exercise and motor performance. To develop ergogenic strategies for the aging workforce, mind (brain)-body mechanisms behind the effect of stress on neuromuscular performance need to be well understood. This study investigated the influence of social stress on motor performance and information flow between the frontal and motor regions of the brain during intermittent handgrip contractions among older adults. Thirty older adults, balanced by gender, performed intermittent handgrip contractions at 30% of maximum strength before and after being subjected to a social stressor. Force steadiness, strength loss, root mean square electromyogram (EMG) activity, activation of the brain regions, and functional and effective connectivity between the frontal and motor brain regions were computed for pre- and post-stressor handgrip contractions. Older men exhibited improved motor performance after the stressor and concomitant reduction in functional connectivity between the frontal-motor brain regions ipsilateral to the contracting hand. Additionally, while both sexes exhibited significant causal information flow, i.e., effective connectivity, from the frontal to the motor regions of the brain, irrespective of the stressor, older women exhibited a bidirectional effective connectivity between the frontal-motor brain regions after the stressor. Stress had a facilitative effect on the motor performance of older men through compensatory brain network reorganization. Older women exhibited comparable motor performance pre/post stress, despite showing an increase in bidirectional information flow between the frontal-motor areas. Employing brain hemodynamics can facilitate better understanding of the impact of stress on neuromuscular performance and its differential impacts on brain network reorganization between the sexes.

PMID:35086006 | DOI:10.1016/j.apergo.2022.103691