Predictions of three models of single-joint motor control were compared with experimental observations of the changes in electromyographic (EMG) patterns during fast voluntary movements against an unexpectedly reduced inertial load. The subjects performed elbow flexions over 40° "as fast as possible" in two series. During the first series, an approximately 40% decrease in inertia, simulated by a torque-motor, might occur unpredictably on half of the trials (unloaded trials). During the second series, all the trials were unloaded. The major findings are: (1) no differences in the antagonist burst latency in unexpectedly unloaded and unperturbed trials; (2) a decrease in the antagonist latency during expected unloadings; (3) a small, statistically non significant decrease in the first agonist burst EMG integral; and (4) a larger, statistically significant increase in the antagonist burst EMG integral in unexpectedly unloaded trials as compared to unperturbed trials. The data are in good correspondence with a version of the equilibrium-point hypothesis that assumes central programming of the beginning of the antagonist burst and incorporates the possibility of reflex-induced changes in EMG amplitudes.
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