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Mandy L. Gault, Richard E. Clements and Mark E.T. Willems

Cardiovascular responses of older adults to downhill (DTW, –10% incline) and level treadmill walking (0%) at self-selected walking speed (SSWS) were examined. Fifteen participants (age 68 ± 4 yr, height 1.69 ± 0.08 m, body mass 74.7 ± 8.1 kg) completed two 15-min walks at their SSWS (4.6 ± 0.6 km/hr). Cardiovascular responses were estimated using an arterial-volume finger clamp and infrared plethysmography. Oxygen consumption was 25% lower during DTW and associated with lower values for stroke volume (9.9 ml/beat), cardiac output (1.0 L/min), arteriovenous oxygen difference (a-v O2 diff, 2.4 ml/L), and systolic blood pressure (10 mmHg), with no differences in heart rate or diastolic and mean arterial blood pressure. Total peripheral resistance (TPR) was higher (2.11 mmHg) during DTW. During downhill walking, an exercise performed with reduced cardiac strain, endothelial changes, and reduced metabolic demand may be responsible for the different responses in TPR and a-v O2 diff. Future work is warranted on whether downhill walking is suitable for higher risk populations.

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Roger Bourne, Mark Halaki, Benedicte Vanwanseele and Jillian Clarke

This study investigates the hypothesis that shallow edge lifting force in high-level rock climbers is more strongly related to fingertip soft tissue anatomy than to absolute strength or strength to body mass ratio. Fifteen experienced climbers performed repeated maximal single hand lifting exercises on rectangular sandstone edges of depth 2.8, 4.3, 5.8, 7.3, and 12.5 mm while standing on a force measurement platform. Fingertip soft tissue dimensions were assessed by ultrasound imaging. Shallow edge (2.8 and 4.3 mm) lifting force, in newtons or body mass normalized, was uncorrelated with deep edge (12.5 mm) lifting force (r < .1). There was a positive correlation (r = .65, p < .05) between lifting force in newtons at 2.8 mm edge depth and tip of bone to tip of finger pulp measurement (r < .37 at other edge depths). The results confirm the common perception that maximum lifting force on a deep edge (“strength”) does not predict maximum force production on very shallow edges. It is suggested that increased fingertip pulp dimension or plasticity may enable increased deformation of the fingertip, increasing the skin to rock contact area on very shallow edges, and thus increase the limit of force production. The study also confirmed previous assumptions of left/right force symmetry in climbers.

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Andreas Schweizer and Robert Hudek

The aim was to investigate differences of the kinetics of the crimp and the slope grip used in rock climbing. Nine cadaver fingers were prepared and fixated with the proximal phalanx in a frame. The superficial (FDS) and deep (FDP) flexor tendons were loaded selectively and together with 40 N in the crimp grip (PIP joint flexed 90°/DIP joint hyperextended) and the slope grip position (<25° flexed/50° flexed respectively). Five different grip sizes were tested and the flexion force which was generated to the grip was measured. In the crimp grip the FDP generated more flexion force in small sized holds whereas the FDS generated more force in the larger holds. During the slope grip the FDP was more effective than the FDS. While both tendons were loaded, the flexion force was always greater during crimp grip compared with the slope grip. The FDP seems to be most important for very small holds using the crimp grip but also during slope grip holds whereas the FDS is more important for larger flat holds.

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Matthew A. Kilgas, Scott N. Drum, Randall L. Jensen, Kevin C. Phillips and Phillip B. Watts

Rock climbers believe chalk dries the hands of sweat and improves the static coefficient of friction between the hands and the surface of the rock. The purpose of this study was to assess whether chalk affects geometric entropy or muscular activity during rock climbing. Nineteen experienced recreational rock climbers (13 males, 6 females; 173.5 ± 7.0 cm; 67.5 ± 3.4 kg) completed 2 climbing trails with and without chalk. The body position of the climber and muscular activity of the finger flexors was recorded throughout the trial. Following the movement sequence participants hung from a standard climbing hold until they slipped from the climbing structure, while the coefficient of friction and the ratio of the vertical forces on the hands and feet were determined. Although there were no differences in the coefficient of friction (P = .748), geometric entropy (P = .359), the ratio of the vertical forces between the hands and feet (P = .570), or muscular activity (P = .968), participants were able to hang longer after the use of chalk 62.9 ± 36.7 s and 49.3 ± 25.2 s (P = .046). This is advantageous because it may allow for prolonged rests, and more time to plan the next series of climbing moves.

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Amanda M. Ward, Torrey M. Loucks, Edward Ofori and Jacob J. Sosnoff

Audiomotor and visuomotor short-term memory are required for an important variety of skilled movements but have not been compared in a direct manner previously. Audiomotor memory capacity might be greater to accommodate auditory goals that are less directly related to movement outcome than for visually guided tasks. Subjects produced continuous isometric force with the right index finger under auditory and visual feedback. During the first 10 s of each trial, subjects received continuous auditory or visual feedback. For the following 15 s, feedback was removed but the force had to be maintained accurately. An internal effort condition was included to test memory capacity in the same manner but without external feedback. Similar decay times of ~5–6 s were found for vision and audition but the decay time for internal effort was ~4 s. External feedback thus provides an advantage in maintaining a force level after feedback removal, but may not exclude some contribution from a sense of effort. Short-term memory capacity appears longer than certain previous reports but there may not be strong distinctions in capacity across different sensory modalities, at least for isometric force.

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Nick J. Davey, Steve R. Rawlinson, David W. Maskill and Peter H. Ellaway

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the motor cortex was used to produce compound motor evoked potentials (cMEPs) in the first dorsal interosseus (FDI) muscle. The size of cMEPs was measured as an index of corticospinal excitability before and after initiation of a simple reaction task (SRT). The SRT, consisting of an abduction of the right index finger against a vertical support in response to a 1 kHz cueing tone, was performed in 6 healthy male subjects. cMEPs were facilitated when timed to occur just before the fastest simple reaction time (fSRT). When the cMEP was placed 15.5 ± 1.5 ms before the fSRT, its amplitude increased to 176 ± 36% of the control response seen in the relaxed state (no SRTs). Facilitation of the cMEP increased to 382 ± 43% of the control when it was placed 11.9 ± 1.5 ms after the fSRT. The facilitation of cMEP responses prior to the SRT is discussed with particular reference to the premovement potential that may be recorded over the cortex prior to a voluntary movement.

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Maria W.G. Nijhuis-Van der Sanden, Edwin H.F. Van Asseldonk, Paul A.T.M. Eling and Gerard P. Van Galen

This study examined the relationship between decreased speed-accuracy tradeoff and increased neuromotor noise in girls with Turner Syndrome (TS). Fifteen girls with TS and 15 age-matched controls performed isometric force contractions with both index fingers separately at 5 force levels, based on their maximum voluntary contraction. The results revealed that (a) groups did not differ in speed-accuracy tradeoff or neuromotor noise, (b) output-variability increased linearly with force level, (c) signal-to-noise ratio changed according to an inverted U-shaped function, (d) broadening in the frequency profile is highest at the lower force levels, (e) with increasing force level, the power peak in the 0–4 Hz domain dominates, (f) frequency profile broadens more in the dominant hand. These findings suggest that, in girls with TS, motor performance is not diminished in an isometric force task, that motor recruitment is intact, and that neuromotor noise is not increased. The findings are discussed with respect to motor control and neuromotor noise.

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Etienne Guillaud, Martin Simoneau, Gabriel Gauthier and Jean Blouin

The control of goal-directed arm movements performed during whole-body displacements is far from being understood. Recent studies suggested that the compensatory arm movements that allow individuals to preserve hand-in-space trajectory during unexpected body motion are controlled by sensorimotor, automatic-like processes. We tested this hypothesis comparing both the accuracy of movements directed towards body-fixed or Earth-fixed target during body rotations and the amount of interference of the reaching tasks on a concurrent cognitive task. Participants reached for a memorized 55 cm distant straight-ahead target in darkness which was about 20 cm lower than the initial finger position. The target was either body-fixed or Earth-fixed. At reaching onset, participants could be rotated in yaw. The concurrent task consisted of a verbal reaction time (RT) to an auditory stimulus. RTs increased when participants reached for the target while they were rotated. However, this increase was not significantly different for body-fixed and Earth-fixed targets. Reaching accuracy was greater for body-fixed than for Earth-fixed targets. A control experiment suggested that the errors in the Earth-fixed target condition arose from a difficulty in the organization of movements which necessitate both the production of active forces at the shoulder joint (to compensate for body rotation) and a concomitant decrease of muscular activation to lower the arm during reaching movements. These findings suggest that reaching for Earth-fixed or body-fixed targets during body rotation cannot be considered as being purely automatic tasks.

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Matheus M. Gomes and José A. Barela

The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of visual and somatosensory information on body sway in individuals with Down syndrome (DS). Nine adults with DS (19–29 years old) and nine control subjects (CS) (19–29 years old) stood in the upright stance in four experimental conditions: no vision and no touch; vision and no touch; no vision and touch; and vision and touch. In the vision condition, participants looked at a target placed in front of them; in the no vision condition, participants wore a black cotton mask. In the touch condition, participants touched a stationary surface with their right index finger; in the no touch condition, participants kept their arms hanging alongside their bodies. A force plate was used to estimate center of pressure excursion for both anterior-posterior and medial-lateral directions. MANOVA revealed that both the individuals with DS and the control subjects used vision and touch to reduce overall body sway, although individuals with DS still oscillated more than did the CS. These results indicate that adults with DS are able to use sensory information to reduce body sway, and they demonstrate that there is no difference in sensory integration between the individuals with DS and the CS.

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Maria Bellumori, Slobodan Jaric and Christopher A. Knight

Physical quickness is less in older adults with implications for fall prevention, movement initiation, and activities of daily living. The purpose was to compare control of rapid contractions in young and older adults within two diverse muscle groups: powerful elbow extensors (EE) and dexterous index finger abductors (IFA). Most-rapid force pulses to a variety of levels were recorded and peak force and rate of force development (RFD) were analyzed with linear regression. The resulting slope represents the dependent variable of interest, the RFD-scaling factor (RFD-SF). RFD-SF of EE and IFA strongly correlated both overall (r = .87, p < .01) and separately in young (r = .60, p < .05) and older (r = .77, p < .01) adults. RFD-SF values were different between muscle groups (F 1,28 = 19.1, p < .001) and also less in elderly (F 1,28 = 32.6, p < .001). We conclude that RFD-SF provides a sensitive assessment of muscle quickness that can be used to evaluate neuromuscular function in aging humans.