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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2006 Feb;100(2):695-706. Epub 2005 Oct 27.

Effect of muscle fatigue on internal model formation and retention during reaching with the arm.

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Dept. of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, 4200 Engineering Gateway, Univ. of California, Irvine, CA 92697-3975, USA.


The motor system adapts to novel dynamic environments by forming internal models that predict the muscle forces needed to move skillfully. The goal of this study was to determine how muscle fatigue affects internal model formation during arm movement and whether an internal model acquired while fatigued could be recalled accurately after rest. Twelve subjects adapted to a viscous force field applied by a lightweight robot as they reached to a target. They then reached while being resisted by elastic bands until they could no longer touch the target. This protocol reduced the strength of the muscles used to resist the force field by approximately 20%. The bands were removed, and subjects adapted again to the viscous force field. Their adaptive ability, quantified by the amount and time constant of adaptation, was not significantly impaired following fatigue. The subjects then rested, recovering approximately 70% of their lost force-generation ability. When they reached in the force field again, their prediction of the force field strength was different than in a nonfatigued state. This alteration was consistent with the use of a higher level of effort than normally used to counteract the force field. These results suggest that recovery from fatigue can affect recall of an internal model, even when the fatigue did not substantially affect the motor system's ability to form the model. Recovery from fatigue apparently affects recall because the motor system represents internal models as a mapping between effort and movement and relies on practice to recalibrate this mapping.

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