Common drive of motor units in regulation of muscle force

Trends Neurosci. 1994 Jul;17(7):299-305. doi: 10.1016/0166-2236(94)90064-7.


The neuromuscular system is responsible for all our interactions with our environment. Although recent decades have witnessed numerous discoveries that have shed light into various properties of this system, the basic principles underlying its overall operation still remain poorly understood. In this article, Carlo J. De Luca and Zeynep Erim discuss the concept of common drive of motor units that provides a possible scheme for the control of motor units, unifying various seemingly isolated findings that have been reported. According to this concept, a pool of motor units that makes up a muscle is controlled collectively during a contraction of that muscle. The unique firing patterns of individual motor units are effected, not by separate command signals sent to these units, but by one common drive to which motor units respond differently. The specific architecture of the system and the orderly gradation in the inherent properties of individual elements enable a single source to control the activities of all the motor units in a given pool. Such an arrangement relieves the CNS from the burden of monitoring and regulating each motor unit separately.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electrophysiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscles / physiology*