Muscle Synergies at the Elbow in Static and Oscillating Isometric Torque Tasks with Dual Degrees of Freedom

in Motor Control
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This study’s aim was to identify the effect of oscillation of torques in isometric tasks under identical mechanical conditions on the muscle synergies used. It was hypothesized that bi-functional muscles would play a lesser role in torque oscillation, because they would also generate an undesired oscillation. Thus, changes in muscle synergies were expected as a consequence of oscillation in torque generation. The effect of the trajectory of torque generation was investigated in dual-degrees-of-freedom submaximal isometric oscillation torque tasks at the elbow. The torques were flexion-extension and supination-pronation. Oscillation torques were compared with static torque generations at four torque positions during oscillation. Muscle activity was determined with surface electromyography. Compared with the static torque tasks, the oscillation tasks showed an overall increased muscle activity. The oscillation tasks, however, showed similar activity patterns and muscle synergies compared to the static composite tasks. It was found that the motor system is well able to control different orthogonal combinations of slow torque oscillations and constant torques by employing a single oscillating muscle synergy.

Ettema is with the Human Movement Sciences Programme, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway. Taylor, North, and Kippers are with the Dept of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, QLD 4072, Australia.