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Xiaogang Hu and Karl M. Newell

The purpose of this study was to investigate the mechanisms contributing to the different scaling functions between force and force variability in continuous and discrete isometric forces. Muscle forces were simulated with the Fuglevand et al. (1993) model of motor unit recruitment and rate coding, and a range of recruitment and firing properties were manipulated. The influence of time-to-peak force on the discrete force variability was also examined. The results revealed that the peak firing rate, the synchrony between motoneurons, and the recruitment range contributed to the different variability functions in continuous and discrete forces. The shorter time-to-peak force led to higher variability in the peak force. The findings show that the model can produce the distinct properties of the force variability scaling functions in continuous and discrete forces. The simulation results provide preliminary insight into the neuromuscular mechanisms of the different force variability functions in continuous and discrete isometric forces.

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Wan X. Yao

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.

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Marc Monsour, Tanya D. Ivanova, Tim D. Wilson and S. Jayne Garland

The purpose of this study was to investigate whether application of bipolar galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) would influence the common modulation of motor unit discharge rate in bilateral soleus muscles during quiet standing. Soleus motor unit activity was recorded with fine wire electrodes in each leg. Subjects stood, with eyes closed, on two adjacent force platforms to record postural sway with the head facing straight ahead, turned to right, or turned left. Subjects also swayed voluntarily without GVS to the same position as evoked during the GVS. There was no difference in the common drive to bilateral soleus motoneurons during quiet standing and voluntary sway tasks. Common drive was significantly lower during right cathode GVS with the head straight or turned to the right. These results demonstrate that manipulation of vestibular afferent input influences the common modulation of bilateral soleus motor unit pairs during quiet standing.

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Manuel Hulliger, Scott J. Day, Antonio Guimaraes, Walter Herzog and Yuan-Ting Zhang

The experimental simulation method was based upon the separate activation of up to 10 small groups of motor units (MU) in an acute nerve-muscle preparation. The investigator was able to precisely control and systematically alter the features of MU pool activation strategies. No implicit assumptions were made regarding MU properties. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the validity of this method. Three criteria were formulated and found to be satisfied: First, in the time domain, visual and audio displays of simulated EMG were indistinguishable from physiological EMG. Secondly, in the frequency domain, power spectra of simulated EMG revealed the typical features of EMG recorded during voluntary activation in the cat. Thirdly, the well-known mono-tonic relationship between EMG magnitude and force was readily reproduced, alüiough strictly linear relations were not found. In addition. the relationship between the pool's ensemble activation rate and EMG magnitude showed distinct gain compression, mostly attributable to signal cancellation.

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Matt S. Stock and Brennan J. Thompson

We examined the means, medians, and variability for motor-unit interpulse intervals (IPIs) during voluntary, high force contractions. Eight men (mean age = 22 years) attempted to perform isometric contractions at 90% of their maximal voluntary contraction force while bipolar surface electromyographic (EMG) signals were detected from the vastus lateralis and vastus medialis muscles. Surface EMG signal decomposition was used to determine the recruitment thresholds and IPIs of motor units that demonstrated accuracy levels ≥ 96.0%. Motor units with high recruitment thresholds demonstrated longer mean IPIs, but the coefficients of variation were similar across all recruitment thresholds. Polynomial regression analyses indicated that for both muscles, the relationship between the means and standard deviations of the IPIs was linear. The majority of IPI histograms were positively skewed. Although low-threshold motor units were associated with shorter IPIs, the variability among motor units with differing recruitment thresholds was comparable.

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Arnold G. Nelson

It has been shown that the rate of tension generation (dP/dt) continues to increase with increasing stimulation rates, even after maximal tetanic tension has been achieved. Since dP/dt is directly proportional to unloaded shortening velocity, it was questioned whether supramaximal stimulation rates would increase shortening velocity. To test the relationship of velocity and stimulation rate, slack tests were performed on motor units isolated in the rat soleus muscles. For each motor unit tested, two slack tests were performed at two different stimulation rates: one rate yielded a maximal tetanic tension with a "slow" dP/dt (PO) and the other rate yielded a maximal tetanic tension with a "fast" dP/dt (RG). The two stimulation rates (PO and RG) had significantly different effects (p < .05) on motor unit shortening velocity, with the RG rate yielding a shortening velocity greater than that of PO by an average of 13 ± 6%. This suggests that rate coding could be used to grade motor unit power production by grading force production and/or shortening velocity.

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Alan J. Sokoloff, Timothy C. Cope, T. Richard Nichols and Arthur W. English

Differences in the directions of torque produced by motor units might be used by the nervous system to coordinate posture and movement. Here we report plantar flexion and abduction isometric torques exerted at the ankle by 158 motor units in the cat medial gastrocnemius (MG) muscle. In five cats, motor unit torque direction differed by an average of 10°. Torque direction was weakly correlated with unit contraction time in 3 of 5 experiments, with tetanic force in 3 of 5 experiments, and with conduction velocity in 1 of 5 experiments. The direction of whole muscle torque, however, was constant at all levels of MG activation produced in sural and crossed extension reflexes. Thus, although there is a range in the direction of torque produced by motor units in the cat MG, we find no evidence for the ordering of motor units according to torque direction during MG activation.

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Lars Larsson, Fushun Yu, Peter Höök, Bhagavathi Ramamurthy, James O. Marx and Parinaz Pircher

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Denver M.Y. Brown and Steven R. Bray

). In the exercise domain, studies have measured muscle activation (i.e., motor unit activation) while performing isometric muscle contractions ( Bray et al., 2008 ; Graham, Sonne, & Bray, 2014 ) and endurance cycling ( Pageaux, Marcora, Rozand, & Lepers, 2015 ). These studies have shown that

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Stan C.A.M. Gielen

EMG recordings are frequently used to obtain a better understanding in the coordination of movements. However, EMG activity is made up by the weighted summation of activity of many motor units with different contractile properties. Recent studies have revealed that different motor units contribute to muscle force in different motor tasks. The flexible recruitment of motor units with various contractile properties allows a flexible tuning of muscle properties, but also complicates the interpretation of EMG activity.