Effects of gravitational forces on single joint arm movements in humans

Exp Brain Res. 1994;99(2):338-46. doi: 10.1007/BF00239600.


We have examined the kinematics and muscle activation patterns of single joint elbow movements made in the vertical plane. Movements of different amplitudes were performed during a visual, step-tracking task. By adjusting shoulder position, both elbow flexion and extension movements were made under three conditions: (a) in the horizontal plane, (b) in the vertical plane against gravity, and (c) in the vertical plane with gravity. Regardless of the gravitational load, all movements were characterized by time symmetric velocity profiles. In addition, no differences were found in the relationships between movement duration, peak velocity, and movement amplitude in movements with or against gravity. The pattern of muscle activation was influenced however, by the gravitational load. Both flexion and extension movements made with gravity were characterized by a reciprocally organized pattern of muscle activity in which phasic agonist activity was followed by phasic antagonist activity. Flexion and extension movements made against gravity were characterized by early phasic antagonist activity occurring at about the same time as the initial agonist burst. These findings suggest that EMG patterns are modified in order to preserve a common temporal structure in the face of different gravitational loads.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arm / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Gravitation*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement / physiology*