The final common pathway in postural control--developmental perspective

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1998 Jul;22(4):479-84. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(97)00033-x.


A brief review is given concerning postural specialisations among mammalian muscle fibres and motor units. Most skeletal muscles contain a mixture of fibres with different characteristics, and their slow-twitch (S) units are well-known to possess properties suitable for postural tasks: they are highly fatigue-resistant, well equipped for oxidative metabolism, and their slowness makes them energetically cheap in (semi-)isometric contractions. These features are adequately employed in motor behaviour owing to characteristics of the associated motoneurones. In adult mammals, the way in which a muscle is used can influence its proportion of S units. This adjustment occurs within a restricted 'adaptive range' which differs between muscles and animal species, presumably being preset at an early age. In the course of early foetal development, part of the slow vs. fast differentiation of muscle fibre properties can take place independently of innervation. Once innervation has taken place, however, motoneurones influence the differentiation in various ways. On the whole, a well coordinated timing seems to exist between the early differentiation of central motor mechanisms and of the peripheral machinery, largely causing the neuromuscular system to be/become ready for use when the brain needs it.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscle Development*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / growth & development*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation*
  • Nervous System / growth & development*
  • Posture / physiology*