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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2009 Dec;19(6):601-7. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2009.09.002. Epub 2009 Oct 12.

The case for and against muscle synergies.

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Northwestern University, Department of Biomedical Engineering, USA.


A long standing goal in motor control is to determine the fundamental output controlled by the CNS: does the CNS control the activation of individual motor units, individual muscles, groups of muscles, kinematic or dynamic features of movement, or does it simply care about accomplishing a task? Of course, the output controlled by the CNS might not be exclusive but instead multiple outputs might be controlled in parallel or hierarchically. In this review we examine one particular hypothesized level of control: that the CNS produces movement through the flexible combination of groups of muscles, or muscle synergies. Several recent studies have examined this hypothesis, providing evidence both in support and in opposition to it. We discuss these results and the current state of the muscle synergy hypothesis.

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