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Richard E.A. van Emmerik and Erwin E.H. van Wegen

Current research in biology and physiology has unequivocally demonstrated the significance of variability for the optimal functioning of healthy and adaptable systems. Different pathologies are characterized by reductions in complexity of organization, often signified by loss of variability and adaptability. It is argued that the traditional perspective on biology in general and movement science in particular that tended to associate noise and variability with performance decrements and pathology is no longer tenable. Tools and methodologies that have emerged from the dynamical systems perspective to coordination and control are discussed in the context of postural control and transitions in interlimb coordination and locomotion. First, it is shown that variability can play a functional role in the detection and exploration of stability boundaries during balance control. Second, pattern transitions are characterized by increased variability in movement coordination dynamics. Under conditions of movement pathologies, such as in Parkinson’s disease, reductions in variability in coordination dynamics clearly identify movement coordination and transition problems so characteristic for these patients. It is concluded that the relation between variability and stability is complex and that variability cannot be equated with instability without knowledge of the underlying movement dynamics.

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Oleg Verbitsky, Joseph Mizrahi, Arkady Voloshin, July Treiger and Eli Isakov

The goal of this research was to analyze the effects of fatigue on the shock waves generated by foot strike. Twenty-two subjects were instrumented with an externally attached, lightweight accelerometer placed over the tibial tuberosity. The subjects ran on a treadmill for 30 min at a speed near their anaerobic threshold. Fatigue was established when the end-tidal CO2 pressure decreased. The results indicated that approximately half of the subjects reached the fatigue state toward the end of the test. Whenever fatigue occurred, the peak acceleration was found to increase. It was thus concluded that there is a clear association between fatigue and increased heel strike–induced shock waves. These results have a significant implication for the etiology of running injuries, since shock wave attenuation has been previously reported to play an important role in preventing such injuries.

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Mark L. Latash, Jae Kun Shim, Fan Gao and Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky

We review a series of studies that show stabilization of the moment of a couple produced by a set of digits in many maximal and submaximal accurate force production tasks that have no requirements for the moment. In particular, an unusual and novel multi-digit force production task shows stabilization of the total moment while the total force requires extensive practice to be stabilized. Similar results were obtained in persons with Down syndrome during easier tasks. During prehension, changes in digit forces and coordinates of their points of application suggest the presence of two multi-digit synergies whose purpose is to assure a certain grip force and a certain total moment, respectively. Elderly persons show impaired production of both maximal and submaximal moments that goes beyond their documented loss of muscle force. We conclude that moment production (keeping rotational equilibrium) is a central constraint in a variety of multi-digit tasks that has received little attention. Analysis of digit interaction for moment production during handwriting could signify a major step towards understanding the control of this action.

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Anne R. Schutte and John P. Spencer

The timed-initiation paradigm developed by Ghez and colleagues (1997) has revealed two modes of motor planning: continuous and discrete. Continuous responding occurs when targets are separated by less than 60° of spatial angle, and discrete responding occurs when targets are separated by greater than 60°. Although these two modes are thought to reflect the operation of separable strategic planning systems, a new theory of movement preparation, the Dynamic Field Theory, suggests that two modes emerge flexibly from the same system. Experiment 1 replicated continuous and discrete performance using a task modified to allow for a critical test of the single system view. In Experiment 2, participants were allowed to correct their movements following movement initiation (the standard task does not allow corrections). Results showed continuous planning performance at large and small target separations. These results are consistent with the proposal that the two modes reflect the time-dependent “preshaping” of a single planning system.

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Susumu Yahagi, Zhen Ni, Makoto Takahashi, Yusaku Takeda, Toshio Tsuji and Tatsuya Kasai

Using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), differences in the excitability changes of motor evoked potentials (MEPs) between isometric (force task) and isotonic (movement task) muscle contractions in a distal (first dorsal interosseous; FDI) and a proximal (middle deltoid; MD) muscle were studied. In the FDI muscle, the active threshold of MEP recruitment was significantly lower in the isotonic than that in the isometric muscle contraction in spite of identical background EMG activity levels. Additionally, the dependence of the MEP amplitude on background EMG activity was significantly greater in the isotonic than in the isometric muscle contraction at low EMG activity levels, but the difference disappeared beyond middle EMG activity levels. In the MD muscle, the dependence of the MEP amplitude on background EMG activity was significantly greater in the isotonic than in the isometric muscle contraction, and further this dependence was kept at all muscle contraction levels. These results indicate that the dependence of the MEP amplitude on background EMG activity is modulated not only by the different muscle contraction modes (isotonic and isometric), but also by muscle properties (distal and proximal). Thus, the present findings suggest that the task-specific extra excitation in the proximal muscle is definitely produced corresponding to task differences (task-dependent subliminal fringe), which might be explained by the predominant frequency principle if applied to the proximal muscle. On the other hand, the lack of task-dependent extra excitation in the distal muscle is explained by the predominant recruitment principle for force grading in small hand muscles.

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Saira Chaudhry, Dylan Morrissey, Roger C. Woledge, Dan L. Bader and Hazel R.C. Screen

Triceps surae eccentric exercise is more effective than concentric exercise for treating Achilles tendinopathy, however the mechanisms underpinning these effects are unclear. This study compared the biomechanical characteristics of eccentric and concentric exercises to identify differences in the tendon load response. Eleven healthy volunteers performed eccentric and concentric exercises on a force plate, with ultrasonography, motion tracking, and EMG applied to measure Achilles tendon force, lower limb movement, and leg muscle activation. Tendon length was ultrasonographically tracked and quantified using a novel algorithm. The Fourier transform of the ground reaction force was also calculated to investigate for tremor, or perturbations. Tendon stiffness and extension did not vary between exercise types (P = .43). However, tendon perturbations were significantly higher during eccentric than concentric exercises (25%–40% higher, P = .02). Furthermore, perturbations during eccentric exercises were found to be negatively correlated with the tendon stiffness (R 2 = .59). The particular efficacy of eccentric exercise does not appear to result from variation in tendon stiffness or extension within a given session. However, varied perturbation magnitude may have a role in mediating the observed clinical effects. This property is subject-specific, with the source and clinical timecourse of such perturbations requiring further research.

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Yu-Ting Tseng, Sanaz Khosravani, Arash Mahnan and Jürgen Konczak

This review addresses the role of exercise as an intervention for treating neurological disease. It focuses on three major neurological diseases that either present in acute or neurodegenerative forms—Parkinson’s disease, cerebellar ataxia, and cortical stroke. Each of the diseases affects primarily different brain structures, namely the basal ganglia, the cerebellum, and the cerebrum. These structures are all known to be involved in motor control, and the dysfunction of each structure leads to distinct movement deficits. The review summarizes current knowledge on how exercise can aid rehabilitation or therapeutic efforts. In addition, it addresses the role of robotic devices in enhancing available therapies by reviewing how robot-aided therapies may promote the recovery for stroke survivors. It highlights recent scientific evidence in support of exercise as a treatment for brain dysfunction, but also outlines the still open challenges for unequivocally demonstrating the benefits of exercise.

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Melissa R. Lachowitzer, Anne Ranes and Gary T. Yamaguchi

In order to create a flexible model of the foot for dynamic musculoskeletal models, anthropometric data combined with geometric information describing the intrinsic musculature are needed. In this study, the left feet of two male and two female cadavers were dissected to expose the intrinsic musculotendon pathways. Three-dimensional coordinates of bony landmarks, tendon origins, insertions, and via points were digitized to submillimeter accuracy. Muscle architectural parameters were also measured, including volume, weight, and pennation angle and sarcomere, fascicle, and free tendon lengths. Optimal muscle fascicle lengths, pennation angles at optimal length, physiological cross-sectional areas (PCSA), and tendon slack lengths were calculated from the directly measured values. Fascicle length and pennation angle varied greatly within each subject. Average fascicle lengths normalized by optimal fascicle length varied between 0.73 and 1.25, with 75% of the formalin-preserved muscles being found in a shortened state. The muscle volume and PCSA also had a large variability within subjects but less variation between subjects. The ratio of tendon slack length to optimal fascicle length was found to vary between 1.05 and 9.56. Using this data, a deformable model of the foot can now be created. It is envisioned that deformable feet will significantly improve

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Joanne L. Parsons

Edited by R. Barry Dale

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Karla A. Henderson and Barbara E. Ainsworth

Physical activity involvement often changes as an individual gets older. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to explore the involvement in and meanings of physical activity from childhood to the present among a selected group of Native American women. The results showed that perceived meanings of physical activity remained relatively stable over the lives of these women. Two patterns of involvement emerged among the women: decliners and rejuvenators. The results suggested that physical activity as women aged was a result not of choice as often as of a life situation. Furthermore, the changes occurring in physical activity over the life course reflected social and cultural influences, as well as individual self-determination. The findings indicated that a variety of perspectives are needed if researchers are to understand the changes that occur in physical activity patterns and how both women and men of all ethnic groups might remain involved in physical activity throughout their lives.