Relation between muscle and brain activity during isometric contractions of the first dorsal interosseus muscle

Hum Brain Mapp. 2008 Mar;29(3):281-99. doi: 10.1002/hbm.20388.


We studied the relationship between muscle activity (electromyography, EMG), force, and brain activity during isometric contractions of the index finger, on a group and individual level. Ten subjects contracted their right or left index finger at 5, 15, 30, 50, and 70% of their maximal force. Subjects received visual feedback of the produced force. We focused our analysis on brain activation that correlated with EMG. Brain activity of specific anatomical areas (region-of-interest analysis, ROI) was quantified and correlated with EMG activity. Furthermore, we tried to distinguish between brain areas in which activity was modulated by the amount of EMG and areas that were active during the task but in which the activity was not modulated. Therefore, we used two regressors simultaneously: (1) the produced EMG and (2) the task (a categorical regressor). As expected, activity in the motor areas (contralateral sensorimotor cortex, premotor areas, and ipsilateral cerebellum) strongly correlated with the amount of EMG. In contrast, activity in frontal and parietal areas (inferior part of the right precentral sulcus, ipsilateral supramarginal gyrus, bilateral inferior parietal lobule, bilateral putamen, and insular cortex) correlated with activation per se, independently of the amount of EMG. Activity in these areas was equal during contractions of the right or left index finger. We suppose that these areas are more involved in higher order motor processes during the preparatory phase or monitoring feedback mechanisms. Furthermore, our ROI analysis showed that muscle and brain activity strongly correlate in traditional motor areas, both at group and at subject level.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Electromyography
  • Fingers / innervation
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Lifting
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Psychophysics
  • Task Performance and Analysis


  • Oxygen