This study investigated the possible role of the corticospinal system during force generation and force relaxation. Nine young and healthy subjects were instructed to produce a total force with four fingers within a hand following a preset force generation and relaxation ramp template closely. Excitability of corticospinal (CS) projections was assessed by single- and paired-pulse TMS. Errors introduced by a finger force were partially compensated by other finger forces during force generation, but were amplified during force relaxation. The CS excitability was greater during force generation than maintenance or relaxation. No difference in intracortical inhibition or facilitation was found. Nonnormalized finger extensor EMG responses remained unchanged. The findings suggest that force relaxation is not just a withdrawal from activation, and multifinger interactions are likely controlled beyond the primary motor cortex.
Li is with the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), Houston, TX, and UTHealth Neurorehabilitation Research Laboratory at TIRR, TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital, Houston, TX.