Reciprocal activation and coactivation in antagonistic muscles during rapid goal-directed movements

Brain Res Bull. 1994;34(6):587-93. doi: 10.1016/0361-9230(94)90144-9.


Seven normal subjects performed elbow extensions as rapidly as possible from an initial position to a visually defined target at 36 degrees in amplitude. In electromyograms, the reciprocal activation of the agonist and then antagonist bursts was always followed by simultaneous activation of the antagonistic muscles, i.e., coactivation. Instructions added to perform extensions "as rapidly as possible" changed coactivation; the command to "strongly fix the upper arm at the target" increased coactivation, whereas "relax immediately after the start of movement" made coactivation almost disappear. However, basic features of reciprocal activation remained the same. Other instructions given also changed coactivation on initiation and termination, while reciprocal activation was relatively unaltered. When subjects were encouraged to "relax immediately after the start of movement, but fix the upper arm quickly after attaining the target," coactivation initiated shortly after reaching the target (< 200 ms). Following the instruction to "relax the upper arm quickly after attaining the target," coactivation terminated rapidly after reaching the target (< 280 ms). The results show that instructions serve to change amplitude and timing of coactivation while keeping reciprocal activation relatively unaltered, suggesting that coactivation is controlled independently of reciprocal activation during rapid goal-directed movements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Elbow
  • Electromyography
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Time Factors