Effects of immobilization on contractile properties, recruitment and firing rates of human motor units

J Physiol. 1990 Mar;422:55-65. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1990.sp017972.


1. The contractile properties, recruitment and firing rates of motor units from the human adductor pollicis and the first dorsal interosseous were studied during voluntary isometric contractions after 6-8 weeks' immobilization of the corresponding limbs. 2. In both muscles, motor units of different force thresholds showed a proportionally identical twitch tension decrease and slowing of their time course after immobilization. 3. When expressed as a percentage of the maximal voluntary contraction, more high-threshold motor units were recorded in disused muscles than in control muscles, but the order of recruitment was maintained. 4. The motor unit firing rate at recruitment was identical in control and disused muscles, but the maximal firing rate decreased in all motor units after immobilization. This decrease of the maximal firing rate was greater in motor units of lower threshold than in those of higher threshold. 5. The results further document motoneuronal plasticity in human muscles of different fibre type composition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immobilization / physiology*
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscles / innervation*
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Time Factors