EMG activation patterns during force production in precision grip. III. Synchronisation of single motor units

Exp Brain Res. 2000 Oct;134(4):441-55. doi: 10.1007/s002210000484.


Motor unit (MU) synchronisation during isometric force production in the precision grip was analysed in five subjects performing a visually guided steptracking motor task with three different force levels. With this aim multi-unit electromyographic (EMG) activity of 14 intrinsic and extrinsic finger muscles from 15 experimental sessions was decomposed into the potentials of single MUs. The behaviour of 62 intrinsic and 30 extrinsic MUs in the motor task was quantified. Most MUs displayed a positive correlation between firing rate and grip force. Compared to MUs in extrinsic muscles, intrinsic MUs had steeper regression lines with negative intercepts indicating higher force sensitivity and higher recruitment thresholds. A cross-correlation analysis was performed for 69 intra- and 166 intermuscular MU pairs while steady grip force was exerted at the three force levels. Synchronisation, for at least one force level, was found in 78% of the intra- and 45% of the intermuscular pairs. The occurrence of synchronisation was not stable over the force range tested. Factors influencing the fluctuations in occurrence and strength of synchronisation were investigated. Force increase was not paralleled by increased synchronisation; in contrast, in most MU pairs, especially intermuscular pairs, synchronisation occurred preferentially at the lower force levels. The recruitment threshold appeared to play a determining role in synchronisation: the more similar the thresholds of two MUs, the greater the probability of them being synchronised at this force level. Synchronised MUs fired on average at a lower frequency than non-synchronised ones. Finally, synchronisation at the multi-unit EMG level does not indicate that all underlying MUs are synchronised, nor does the absence of temporal coupling at the multi-unit level indicate that none of the MUs is synchronised.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electromyography*
  • Fingers
  • Hand Strength / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*