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Exp Brain Res. 2000 Aug;133(3):377-90.

Selective enhancement of motoneurone short-term synchrony during an attention-demanding task.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Physiologie, et Physiopathologie Neuromusculaire Humaine, CNRS-UPR Neurobiologie et Mouvements, Marseille, France. schmied@dpm.cnrs-mrs.fr

Abstract

Recent experiments on monkeys suggest that attention-related changes in the synchronous activity of neurones occur in the motor cortex. In humans, the clinical data available suggest that the weak synchronization of the motor unit firing observed during voluntary contraction might reflect the activity of the motoneurone cortico-spinal afferents. The present study was therefore designed to investigate how the synchronous motor-unit activity might depend on the attention required in performing a motor task. Twenty-five motor unit pairs were tested in the right extensor carpi radialis muscles of five right-handed subjects, who were instructed to keep both motor units firing tonically while trying to maintain the extension force as constant as possible using visual feedback set either at low or high gain. Fifteen motor unit pairs (60%) showed a greater amount of synchronous activity, without any consistent changes in the motor unit firing rates, when the subjects were monitoring the force at high gain. In addition, the mean value and the steadiness of the force did not differ significantly between the two tasks. The amplitude of the motor units' contractile force extracted by spike-triggered averaging did not change consistently despite the slight increase in the synchronous impulse probability observed under the high-gain conditions. Changes in synchrony affected slowly contracting, low-threshold motor units as well as fast-contracting, high-threshold motor units. The most noteworthy finding was that these changes actually focused on a narrow component of the synchronous activity (within a period of less than 4 ms) in keeping with the short-term synchronization process. This suggests that common inputs, possibly of cortical origin, may have contributed more greatly to controlling the motoneurone firing pattern in the motor task which required the subjects to pay more attention.

PMID:
10958528
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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