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Electromechanical delay in isometric muscle contractions evoked by voluntary, reflex and electrical stimulation.

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  • 1Department of Physical Education and Recreation, Victoria University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.


Electromechanical delay (EMD) in isometric contractions of knee extensors evoked by voluntary, tendon reflex (TR) and electrical stimulation (ES) was investigated in 21 healthy young subjects. The subject performed voluntary knee extensions with maximum effort (maximal voluntary contraction, MVC), and at 30%, 60% and 80% MVC. Patellar tendon reflexes were evoked with the reflex hammer being dropped from 60 degrees, 75 degrees and 90 degrees positions. In the percutaneous ES evoked contractions, single switches were triggered with pulses of duration 1.0 ms and of intensities 90, 120 and 150 V. Electromyograms of the vastus lateralis and rectus femoris muscles were recorded using surface electrodes. The isometric knee extension force was recorded using a load cell force transducer connected to the subject's lower leg. The major finding of this study was that EMD of the involuntary contractions [e.g. mean 22.1 (SEM 1.32) ms in TR 90 degrees; mean 17.2 (SEM 0.62) ms in ES 150 V] was significantly shorter than that of the voluntary contractions [e.g. mean 38.7 (SEM 1.18) ms in MVC, P < 0.05]. The relationships between EMD, muscle contractile properties and muscle fibre conduction velocity were also investigated. Further study is needed to explain fully the EMD differences found between the voluntary and involuntary contractions.

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