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Comparative Study
. 2003;121(2):277-85.
doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(03)00439-1.

Neck Muscle Fatigue Affects Postural Control in Man

Comparative Study

Neck Muscle Fatigue Affects Postural Control in Man

M Schieppati et al. Neuroscience. .

Erratum in

  • Neuroscience. 2004;128(3):665


We hypothesised that, since anomalous neck proprioceptive input can produce perturbing effects on posture, neck muscle fatigue could alter body balance control through a mechanism connected to fatigue-induced afferent inflow. Eighteen normal subjects underwent fatiguing contractions of head extensor muscles. Sway during quiet stance was recorded by a dynamometric platform, both prior to and after fatigue and recovery, with eyes open and eyes closed. After each trial, subjects were asked to rate their postural control. Fatigue was induced by having subjects stand upright and exert a force corresponding to about 35% of maximal voluntary effort against a device exerting a head-flexor torque. The first fatiguing period lasted 5 min (F1). After a 5-min recovery period (R1), a second period of fatiguing contraction (F2) and a second period of recovery (R2) followed. Surface EMG activity from dorsal neck muscles was recorded during the contractions and quiet stance trials. EMG median frequency progressively decreased and EMG amplitude progressively increased during fatiguing contractions, demonstrating that muscle fatigue occurred. After F1, subjects swayed to a larger extent compared with control conditions, recovering after R1. Similar findings were obtained after F2 and after R2. Although such behaviour was detectable under both visual conditions, the effects of fatigue reached significance only without vision. Subjective scores of postural control diminished when sway increased, but diminished more, for equal body sway, after fatigue and recovery. Contractions of the same duration, but not inducing EMG signs of fatigue, had much less influence on body sway or subjective scoring. We argue that neck muscle fatigue affects mechanisms of postural control by producing abnormal sensory input to the CNS and a lasting sense of instability. Vision is able to overcome the disturbing effects connected with neck muscle fatigue.

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