Compensation for mechanically unstable loading in voluntary wrist movement

Exp Brain Res. 1993;94(3):522-32. doi: 10.1007/BF00230210.


In order to study the roles of muscle mechanics and reflex feedback in stabilizing movement, experiments were conducted in which healthy human subjects performed targeted wrist movements under conditions where the damping of the wrist was reduced with a load having the property of negative viscosity. If the movement speed and negative viscosity. If the movement speed and negative viscosity were sufficiently high, the wrist oscillated for several hundred milliseconds about the final target position. Subjects increased the activation of both wrist flexor and extensor muscles to increase joint stiffness to damp the oscillations. With practice, both the tendency to oscillate and the level of muscle activation were reduced. A small bias torque in either direction, added to the negative viscosity, enhanced the oscillations as well as the amount of flexor and extensor muscle activation during the stabilization phase of fast movements. The tendency for the wrist to oscillate was also seen during slow movements where the oscillations were superimposed upon the voluntary movement. We suggest that this reduction in mechanical stability is primarily of reflex origin. As wrist stiffness increases, the natural frequency of the wrist also increases, which in turn produces an increase in the phase lag of the torque generated by the myotatic reflex with respect to wrist angular velocity, effectively reducing damping. The oscillation frequency was often close to a critical frequency for stability at which torque, due to the myotatic reflex, lagged angular velocity by 180 degrees (6-7.5 Hz). Nevertheless, subjects were able to damp these oscillations, probably because the torque due to intrinsic muscle stiffness (in phase with position and hence lagging velocity by only 90 degrees) dominated the torque contribution of the myotatic reflex. Increasing stiffness with declining oscillation amplitude may also have contributed significantly to damping.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Forearm / innervation
  • Forearm / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscles / innervation
  • Muscles / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Wrist Joint / innervation
  • Wrist Joint / physiology*