Motor unit recruitment was assessed in two muscles with similar muscle fiber-type compositions and that participate in skilled movements: the tongue muscle, genioglossus (GG), and the hand muscle, first dorsal interosseous (FDI). Our primary objectives were to determine in the framework of a voluntary movement whether muscle force is regulated in tongue as it is in limb, i.e., via processes of rate coding and recruitment. Recruitment in the two muscles was assessed within each subject in the context of ramp force (FDI) and in the tongue (GG) during vowel production and specifically, in the context of ramp increases in loudness, and subsequently expressed relative to the maximal. The principle findings of the study are that the general rules of recruitment and rate coding hold true for both GG and FDI, and second, that average firing rates, firing rates at recruitment and peak firing rates in GG are significantly higher than for FDI (P < 0.001) despite tasks performed across comparable force ranges (~2–40 % of max). The higher firing rates observed in the tongue within the context of phonation may be a function of that muscle’s dual role as (prime) mover and hydrostatic support element.
- Motor unit
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