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Neuropsychologia. 2004;42(7):944-56.

From mental power to muscle power--gaining strength by using the mind.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering/ND20, The Lerner Research Institute, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.

Abstract

The purposes of this project were to determine mental training-induced strength gains (without performing physical exercises) in the little finger abductor as well as in the elbow flexor muscles, which are frequently used during daily living, and to quantify cortical signals that mediate maximal voluntary contractions (MVCs) of the two muscle groups. Thirty young, healthy volunteers participated in the study. The first group (N = 8) was trained to perform "mental contractions" of little finger abduction (ABD); the second group (N = 8) performed mental contractions of elbow (ELB) flexion; and the third group (N = 8) was not trained but participated in all measurements and served as a control group. Finally, six volunteers performed training of physical maximal finger abductions. Training lasted for 12 weeks (15 min per day, 5 days per week). At the end of training, we found that the ABD group had increased their finger abduction strength by 35% (P < 0.005) and the ELB group augmented their elbow flexion strength by 13.5% (P < 0.001). The physical training group increased the finger abduction strength by 53% (P < 0.01). The control group showed no significant changes in strength for either finger abduction or elbow flexion tasks. The improvement in muscle strength for trained groups was accompanied by significant increases in electroencephalogram-derived cortical potential, a measure previously shown to be directly related to control of voluntary muscle contractions. We conclude that the mental training employed by this study enhances the cortical output signal, which drives the muscles to a higher activation level and increases strength.

PMID:
14998709
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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