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J Neurophysiol. 2006 Sep;96(3):1530-46. Epub 2006 Jun 14.

Muscle synergy organization is robust across a variety of postural perturbations.

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  • 1The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, at Georgia Tech and Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30332-0535, USA.


We recently showed that four muscle synergies can reproduce multiple muscle activation patterns in cats during postural responses to support surface translations. We now test the robustness of functional muscle synergies, which specify muscle groupings and the active force vectors produced during postural responses under several biomechanically distinct conditions. We aimed to determine whether such synergies represent a generalized control strategy for postural control or if they are merely specific to each postural task. Postural responses to multidirectional translations at different fore-hind paw distances and to multidirectional rotations at the preferred stance distance were analyzed. Five synergies were required to adequately reconstruct responses to translation at the preferred stance distance-four were similar to our previous analysis of translation, whereas the fifth accounted for the newly added background activity during quiet stance. These five control synergies could account for > 80% total variability or r2 > 0.6 of the electromyographic and force tuning curves for all other experimental conditions. Forces were successfully reconstructed but only when they were referenced to a coordinate system that rotated with the limb axis as stance distance changed. Finally, most of the functional muscle synergies were similar across all of the six cats in terms of muscle synergy number, synergy activation patterns, and synergy force vectors. The robustness of synergy organization across perturbation types, postures, and animals suggests that muscle synergies controlling task-variables are a general construct used by the CNS for balance control.

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