Mirror Activity (MA) is a phenomenon that is characterized by involuntarily occurring muscular activity in homologous contralateral limbs during unilateral movements. Even in neurologically healthy humans, MA of a small extent has been described, which does not directly lead to visible movements, but nonetheless, it is still detectable with surface electromyography (EMG) and therefore defined as physiological MA (pMA). The present study investigated latency- and amplitude-characteristics of pMA during repetitive unimanual isometric contractions with high but constant force requirements (80% maximum force). Here, we show for the first time that pMA is not time-locked to the muscle onset of voluntarily contracting hand muscles but starts with varying and dynamically changing latencies. Following consecutive isometric unilateral contractions, the latency of pMA progressively decreases accompanied by a progressive linear increase in its amplitude possibly as a result of changes in inhibitory mechanisms involved in suppressing involuntarily occurring muscular activity. Overall, the latency and amplitude of pMA show a strong inverse relationship. Furthermore, based on the previously proposed hypothesis of motor overflow, we explored the possibility of pMA modulation through anodal and cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) applied to the ipsilateral primary motor cortex (M1), relative to a voluntarily contracting hand. Neither anodal nor cathodal tDCS is able to modulate amplitude or latency of pMA compared to sham tDCS. In conclusion, our results extend the existing knowledge of pMA occurring due to high-effort unilateral contractions with constant force requirements to the aspect of its latency and the inverse association with its amplitude.
Keywords: EMG; latency; mirror activity; motor overflow; tDCS.
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