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J Neurophysiol. 2014 Oct 1;112(7):1678-84. doi: 10.1152/jn.00063.2014. Epub 2014 Jul 2.

Motor unit recruitment and firing rate in medial gastrocnemius muscles during external perturbations in standing in humans.

Author information

1
Graduate Program in Rehabilitation Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; and.
2
Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
3
Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada jayne.garland@ubc.ca.

Abstract

There is limited investigation of the interaction between motor unit recruitment and rate coding for modulating force during standing or responding to external perturbations. Fifty-seven motor units were recorded from the medial gastrocnemius muscle with intramuscular electrodes in response to external perturbations in standing. Anteriorly directed perturbations were generated by applying loads in 0.45-kg increments at the pelvis every 25-40 s until 2.25 kg was maintained. Motor unit firing rate was calculated for the initial recruitment load and all subsequent loads during two epochs: 1) dynamic response to perturbation directly following each load drop and 2) maintenance of steady state between perturbations. Joint kinematics and surface electromyography (EMG) from lower extremities and force platform measurements were assessed. Application of the external loads resulted in a significant forward progression of the anterior-posterior center of pressure (AP COP) that was accompanied by modest changes in joint angles (<3°). Surface EMG increased more in medial gastrocnemius than in the other recorded muscles. At initial recruitment, motor unit firing rate immediately after the load drop was significantly lower than during subsequent load drops or during the steady state at the same load. There was a modest increase in motor unit firing rate immediately after the load drop on subsequent load drops associated with regaining balance. There was no effect of maintaining balance with increased load and forward progression of the AP COP on steady-state motor unit firing rate. The medial gastrocnemius utilized primarily motor unit recruitment to achieve the increased levels of activation necessary to maintain standing in the presence of external loads.

KEYWORDS:

motor unit; muscle activity; perturbation; postural control in standing

PMID:
24990568
DOI:
10.1152/jn.00063.2014
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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