Task and fatigue effects on low-threshold motor units in human hand muscle.
1. The activity of single motor units was recorded in the first dorsal interosseus muscle of human subjects while they performed an isometric ramp-and-hold maneuver. Motor-unit activity was characterized before and after fatigue by the use of a branched bipolar electrode that was positioned subcutaneously over the test muscle. Activity was characterized in terms of the forces of recruitment and derecruitment and the discharge pattern. The purpose was to determine, before and after fatigue, whether motor-unit activity was affected by the direction in which the force was exerted. 2. Regardless of the task during prefatigue trials, interimpulse intervals were 1) more variable during increases or decreases in force than when force was held constant at the target value (4-6% above the recruitment force), and 2) more clustered around an arbitrary central value than would be expected with a normal (Gaussian) distribution. Both effects were seen during the flexion and abduction tasks. The behavior of low-threshold motor units in first dorsal interosseus is thus largely unaffected by the direction of the force exerted by the index finger. The absence of a task (i.e., a direction of force) effect suggests that the resultant force vector about the metacarpophalangeal joint of the index finger is not coded in terms of discrete populations of motor units, but, rather, it is based on the net muscle activity about the joint. 3. Motor-unit behavior during and after fatigue showed that the relatively homogeneous behavior seen before fatigue could be severely disrupted. The fatiguing protocol involved the continuous repetition, to the endurance limit, of a 15-s ramp-and-hold maneuver in which the abduction target force was 50% of maximum and was held for 10-s epochs (ramps up and down were approximately 2 s each). Motor-unit threshold was assessed by the forces of recruitment and derecruitment associated with each cycle of the fatigue test. Changes in recruitment force during the protocol were either minimal or, when present, not systematic. In contrast, the derecruitment force of all units exhibited a marked and progressive increase over the course of the test. 4. After the fatigue test, when the initial threshold tasks were repeated, the behavior of most motor units changed. These changes included the derecruitment of previously active motor units, the recruitment of additional motor units, and an increased discharge variability of units that remained recruited. The variation in recruitment order seemed to be much greater than that reported previously for nonfatiguing conditions.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)
Enoka, RM; Robinson, GA; Kossev, AR
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