Motor control of low-threshold motor units in the human trapezius muscle.
ABSTRACT The firing pattern of low-threshold motor units was examined in the human trapezius and first dorsal interosseous (FDI) muscles during slowly augmenting, low-amplitude contractions that were intended to mimic contractile activity in postural muscles. The motor unit activity was detected with a special needle electrode and was analyzed with the assistance of computer algorithms. The surface electromyographic (EMG) signal was recorded. Its root-mean-square (RMS) value was calculated and presented to the subject who used it to regulate the muscle force level. In the trapezius, there was minimal, if any, firing rate modulation of early recruited motor units during slow contractions (< or =1% EMG(max)/s), and later recruited motor units consistently presented higher peak firing rates. As the force rate of the contraction increased (3% EMG(max)/s), the firing rates of the motor units in the trapezius approached an orderly hierarchical pattern with the earliest recruited motor units having the greatest firing rate. In contrast, and as reported previously, the firing rates of all motor units in the FDI always presented the previously reported hierarchical "onion-skin" pattern. We conclude that the low-threshold motor units in the postural trapezius muscle, that is the motor units that are most often called on to activate the muscle in postural activities, have different control features in slow and fast contractions. More detailed analysis revealed that, in the low force-rate contractions of the trapezius, recruitment of new motor units inhibited the firing rate of active motor units, providing an explanation for the depressed firing rate of the low-threshold motor units. We speculate that Renshaw cell inhibition contributes to the observed deviation of the low-threshold motor units from the hierarchical onion-skin pattern.
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ABSTRACT: The term “preferred firing range” describes a pattern of human motor unit (MU) unitary discharge during a voluntary contraction in which the profile of the spike-frequency of the MU's compound action potential is dissociated from the profile of the presumed depolarizing pressure exerted on the unit's spinal motoneuron (MN). Such a dissociation has recently been attributed by inference to the presence of a plateau potential (PP) in the active MN. This inference is supported by the qualitative similarities between the firing pattern of human MUs during selected types of relatively brief muscle contraction and that of intracellularly stimulated, PP-generating cat MNs in a decerebrate preparation, and turtle MNs in an in vitro slice of spinal cord. There are also similarities between the stimulus-response behavior of intracellularly stimulated turtle MNs and human MUs during the elaboration of a slowly rising voluntary contraction. This review emphasizes that there are a variety of open issues concerning the PP. Nonetheless, a rapidly growing body of comparative vertebrate evidence supports the idea that the PP and other forms of non-linear MN behavior play a major role in the regulation of muscle force, from the lamprey to the human. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Muscle Nerve 25: 000–000, 2002Muscle & Nerve 04/2002; 25(5):632 - 648. · 2.37 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Henneman's size principle of motor unit recruitment and rate coding reduces fatigue, minimizes error in transfer of information from the nervous system, and produces smooth force output. Plasticity present at various sites of the motor system may change endurance, force, speed, or precision with training, but not the recruitment order.Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews 05/2002; 30(2):59-63. · 4.49 Impact Factor