Compensation for interaction torques during single- and multijoint limb movement

J Neurophysiol. 1999 Nov;82(5):2310-26. doi: 10.1152/jn.1999.82.5.2310.


During multijoint limb movements such as reaching, rotational forces arise at one joint due to the motions of limb segments about other joints. We report the results of three experiments in which we assessed the extent to which control signals to muscles are adjusted to counteract these "interaction torques." Human subjects performed single- and multijoint pointing movements involving shoulder and elbow motion, and movement parameters related to the magnitude and direction of interaction torques were manipulated systematically. We examined electromyographic (EMG) activity of shoulder and elbow muscles and, specifically, the relationship between EMG activity and joint interaction torque. A first set of experiments examined single-joint movements. During both single-joint elbow (experiment 1) and shoulder (experiment 2) movements, phasic EMG activity was observed in muscles spanning the stationary joint (shoulder muscles in experiment 1 and elbow muscles in experiment 2). This muscle activity preceded movement and varied in amplitude with the magnitude of upcoming interaction torque (the load resulting from motion of the nonstationary limb segment). In a third experiment, subjects performed multijoint movements involving simultaneous motion at the shoulder and elbow. Movement amplitude and velocity at one joint were held constant, while the direction of movement about the other joint was varied. When the direction of elbow motion was varied (flexion vs. extension) and shoulder kinematics were held constant, EMG activity in shoulder muscles varied depending on the direction of elbow motion (and hence the sign of the interaction torque arising at the shoulder). Similarly, EMG activity in elbow muscles varied depending on the direction of shoulder motion for movements in which elbow kinematics were held constant. The results from all three experiments support the idea that central control signals to muscles are adjusted, in a predictive manner, to compensate for interaction torques-loads arising at one joint that depend on motion about other joints.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Elbow Joint / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Rotation
  • Shoulder Joint / physiology*
  • Torque