Neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) is a common clinical modality that is widely used to restore1, maintain2 or enhance3-5 muscle functional capacity. Transcutaneous surface stimulation of skeletal muscle involves a current flow between a cathode and an anode, thereby inducing excitement of the motor unit and the surrounding muscle fibers.
NMES is an attractive modality to evaluate skeletal muscle adaptive responses for several reasons. First, it provides a reproducible experimental model in which physiological adaptations, such as myofiber hypertophy and muscle strengthening6, angiogenesis7-9, growth factor secretion9-11, and muscle precursor cell activation12 are well documented. Such physiological responses may be carefully titrated using different parameters of stimulation (for Cochrane review, see 13). In addition, NMES recruits motor units non-selectively, and in a spatially fixed and temporally synchronous manner14, offering the advantage of exerting a treatment effect on all fibers, regardless of fiber type. Although there are specified contraindications to NMES in clinical populations, including peripheral venous disorders or malignancy, for example, NMES is safe and feasible, even for those who are ill and/or bedridden and for populations in which rigorous exercise may be challenging.
Here, we demonstrate the protocol for adapting commercially available electrodes and performing a NMES protocol using a murine model. This animal model has the advantage of utilizing a clinically available device and providing instant feedback regarding positioning of the electrode to elicit the desired muscle contractile effect. For the purpose of this manuscript, we will describe the protocol for muscle stimulation of the anterior compartment muscles of a mouse hindlimb.
Keywords: Neuroscience, Issue 63, Neuromuscular electrical stimulation, skeletal muscle, pre-clinical, animal, medicine, physiology