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Type: Journal article
Title: Motor-unit activity differs with load type during a fatiguing contraction
Author: Mottram, C.
Jakobi, J.
Semmler, J.
Enoka, R.
Citation: Journal of Neurophysiology, 2005; 93(3):1381-1392
Publisher: Amer Physiological Soc
Issue Date: 2005
ISSN: 0022-3077
Statement of
Carol J. Mottram, Jennifer M. Jakobi, John G. Semmler and Roger M. Enoka
Abstract: Despite a similar rate of change in average electromyographic (EMG) activity, previous studies have observed different rates of change in mean arterial pressure, heart rate, perceived exertion, and fluctuations in motor output during the performance of fatiguing contractions that involved different types of loads. To obtain a more direct measure of the motor output from the spinal cord, the purpose of this study was to compare the discharge characteristics of the same motor unit in biceps brachii during the performance of two types of fatiguing contractions. In separate tests with the upper arm vertical and the elbow flexed to 1.57 rad, the seated subjects maintained either a constant upward force at the wrist (force task) or a constant elbow angle (position task) for a prescribed duration. The force and position tasks were performed in random order at a target force equal to 3.5 ± 2.1% (mean ± SD) of the maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) force above the recruitment threshold of the isolated motor unit. Each subject maintained the two tasks for an identical duration (161 ± 96 s) at a mean target force of 22.2 ± 13.4% MVC (range: 3–49% MVC). The dependent variables included the discharge characteristics of the same motor unit in biceps brachii, fluctuations in motor output (force or acceleration), mean arterial pressure, heart rate, and rating of perceived exertion. Despite similar increases in the amplitude of the averaged EMG (% MVC) for the elbow flexor muscles during both tasks (P = 0.60), the rates of increase in mean arterial pressure (P < 0.001), rating of perceived exertion (P = 0.023), and fluctuations in motor output (P = 0.003) were greater during the position task compared with the force task. Consistent with these differences, mean discharge rate declined at a greater rate during the position task (P = 0.03), and the coefficient of variation for discharge rate increased only during the position task (P = 0.02). Furthermore, more motor units were recruited during the position task compared with the force task (P = 0.01). These findings indicate that despite a comparable net muscle torque, the rate of increase in the motor output from the spinal cord was greater during the position task.
Keywords: Arm; Muscle, Skeletal; Elbow Joint; Humans; Electromyography; Motor Activity; Task Performance and Analysis; Psychomotor Performance; Evoked Potentials, Motor; Action Potentials; Muscle Fatigue; Physical Endurance; Muscle Contraction; Adult; Male
Description: Copyright © 2005 by the The American Physiological Society.
RMID: 0020063354
DOI: 10.1152/jn.00837.2004
Published version:
Appears in Collections:Molecular and Biomedical Science publications

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