Perception of effort reflects central motor command during movement execution

Psychophysiology. 2012 Sep;49(9):1242-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2012.01399.x. Epub 2012 Jun 21.


It is thought that perception of effort during physical tasks is the conscious awareness of the central motor command sent to the active muscles. The aim of this study was to directly test this hypothesis by experimentally varying perception of effort and measuring movement-related cortical potential (MRCP). Sixteen healthy, recreationally active men made unilateral dynamic elbow flexions to lift a light (20% one repetition maximum, 1RM) and a heavier (35% 1RM) weight with a fatigued arm and a nonfatigued arm while rating of perceived effort (RPE), biceps brachii electromyogram (EMG), and MRCP were recorded. RPE, EMG amplitude, and MRCP amplitude at Cz during weight raising increased with weight and with muscle fatigue. There was a significant correlation between RPE and MRCP amplitude at the vertex during the weight raising epoch. This study provides direct neurophysiological evidence that perception of effort correlates with central motor command during movement execution.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle Fatigue / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*