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J Exp Biol. 2002 Feb;205(Pt 3):359-69.

Determining patterns of motor recruitment during locomotion.

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  • 1Human Performance Laboratory, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4.


Motor units are the functional units of muscle contraction in vertebrates. Each motor unit comprises muscle fibres of a particular fibre type and can be considered as fast or slow depending on its fibre-type composition. Motor units are typically recruited in a set order, from slow to fast, in response to the force requirements from the muscle. The anatomical separation of fast and slow muscle in fish permits direct recordings from these two fibre types. The frequency spectra from different slow and fast myotomal muscles were measured in the rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss. These two muscle fibre types generated distinct low and high myoelectric frequency bands. The cat paw-shake is an activity that recruits mainly fast muscle. This study showed that the myoelectric signal from the medial gastrocnemius of the cat was concentrated in a high frequency band during paw-shake behaviour. During slow walking, the slow motor units of the medial gastrocnemius are also recruited, and this appeared as increased muscle activity within a low frequency band. Therefore, high and low frequency bands could be distinguished in the myoelectric signals from the cat medial gastrocnemius and probably corresponded, respectively, to fast and slow motor unit recruitment. Myoelectric signals are resolved into time/frequency space using wavelets to demonstrate how patterns of motor unit recruitment can be determined for a range of locomotor activities.

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