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Exp Brain Res. 1995;103(1):123-36.

EMG activation patterns during force production in precision grip. II. Muscular synergies in the spatial and temporal domain.

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Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich, Switzerland.


Electromyographic (EMG) activity was analyzed for the occurrence of synergistic patterns during the steady hold periods of force in the precision grip. To establish the presence of muscle synergies in the amplitude (spatial) domain, the EMG activation levels of pairs of simultaneously active muscles were linearly correlated. Cross-correlations of EMG activity were computed to quantify muscle synergies in the spatiotemporal domain (synchronization). A muscle pair was defined to be synergistically coupled or synchronously activated when the correlation (amplitude domain) or cross-correlation (time domain) was significant for at least two of the three steady state force levels. Muscle synergies in the amplitude domain were found in one-third of the 213 muscle pairs tested, distributed among 47 of the 82 tested muscle combinations. Coactivation was the predominant synergistic pattern, whereas trade-off comprised not more than 23% of the synergies. Cross-correlation peak size varied between 5 and 39% of the autocorrelation size, with delays in the range of +/- 8 ms and base width between 12 and 20 ms. Synchronization was found in one-fourth of the 213 muscle pairs tested and among 35 of the 82 muscle combinations, i.e., less frequently than covariation of EMG activity levels. However, the interindividual prevalence was higher for synchronization than for synergies in the amplitude domain, since, for the synergistic muscle combinations, almost twice as many muscle pairs were found to be synchronized than coupled in the amplitude domain. Synergies in the two domains occurred independently in some pairs and concurrently in other cases, and were observed between muscles moving the thumb, the index finger, or both digits. Synchronization was more frequent in pairs of muscles supplied by branches of the same peripheral nerve (46%) than in those innervated by different nerves (18%). Synergies in the amplitude domain were distributed in similar proportions across intrinsic, extrinsic, and combinations of both types of muscles, whereas synchronization mainly occurred in pairs of intrinsic muscles. When the task was repeated with slightly lower target forces, there were fewer synergies in the amplitude domain (in 52 of the 213 pairs, distributed among 35 of 82 muscle combinations) and their distribution changed, indicating a flexible, force-dependent mechanism. In conclusion, no strictly coherent interindividual pattern of synergies in the spatial domain could be established.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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