The mechanisms by which the nervous system coordinates multiple muscles for the control of finger movements are not well understood. One possibility is that groups of muscles may be enlisted into synergies by last-order inputs that project across multiple motor nuclei. In this study we investigated the role that tactile input might play in coupling together the activities of motor units in two muscles involved in generating the precision grip. Cross-correlation analysis was used to assess the degree of synchrony in the discharge times of pairs of motor units recorded from index-finger and thumb flexor muscles while human subjects performed an isometric task that mimicked a precision grip. The magnitude of synchrony is thought to reflect the extent to which divergent last order inputs provide common synaptic input across motor neurons. Synchrony was evaluated under two simulated-gripping conditions: gripping with normal tactile input and gripping when tactile input from the digit pads was eliminated by applying flexion forces to fittings glued to the finger nails. Synchrony between motor units of index finger flexor and thumb flexor muscles, while substantial, was not significantly different across the two tactile-input conditions. These findings suggest that tactile input is not required to activate the divergent last-order inputs that couple together the activities of the index finger and thumb flexor muscles during the precision grip.
- Motor unit
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