Roles of Motor-Unit Recruitment in Producing Force Variability of Simulated Muscle Contractions

in Motor Control
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The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of motor-unit recruitment on force variability by using computer simulated isometric contractions of a hand muscle (i.e., first dorsal interosseus). The force was simulated at 10 levels of excitation, ranging from 10 to 100% of maximum. Two recruitment conditions were simulated to compare the relative effect of motor-unit recruitment (MUR) on the relationship of force variability and level of force. One condition (40%MUR) recruited all motor units at 40% of the maximum excitation level, and the other (50%MUR) recruited all motor units at 50% of the maximum. The 40%MUR condition had a greater number of motor units than the 50%MUR group before the excitation level reached 50% of the maximum. The results showed that force variability increased at a faster rate before the completion of motor-unit recruitment and, thereafter, increased at a slower rate. In addition, the 40%MUR group showed greater force variability than the 50%MUR group. These data suggest that motor-unit recruitment is an important factor in causing force variability.

The author is with the Department of Health and Kinesiology at the University of Texas-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78249.

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