1. Normal human subjects made discrete elbow flexions in the horizontal plane under different task conditions of initial or final position, inertial loading, or instruction about speed. We measured joint angle, acceleration, and electromyographic signals (EMGs) from two agonist and two antagonist muscles. 2. For many of the experimental tasks, the latency of the antagonist EMG burst was strongly correlated with parameters of the first agonist EMG burst defined by a single equation, expressed in terms of the agonist's hypothetical excitation pulse. Latency is proportional to the ratio of pulse duration to pulse intensity, making it proportional to movement distance and inertial load and inversely proportional to planned movement speed. However, these rules are not sufficient to define the timing of every possible single joint movement. 3. For movements described by the speed-insensitive strategy, the quantity of both antagonist and agonist muscle activity can be uniformly associated with selected kinetic measures that incorporate muscle force- velocity relations. 4. For movements collectively described by the speed- sensitive strategy, (i.e., that have direct or indirect constraints on speed), no single rule can describe all the combinations of agonist- antagonist coordination that are used to perform these diverse tasks. 5. Estimates of joint viscosity were made by calculating the amount of velocity- dependent torque used to terminate movements on target. These estimates are similar to those that have previously been made of limb viscosity during postural maintenance. They imply that a significant component of muscle activity must be used to overcome these forces. 6. These and previous results are all consistent with a dual-strategy hypothesis for those single-joint movements that are sufficiently fast to require pulse-like muscle activation patterns. The major features of such patterns (pulse intensities, durations, and latencies) are determined by central commands programmed in advance of movement initiation. The selection between speed-insensitive or speed- sensitive rules of motoneuron pool excitation is implicitly specified by the nature of speed constraints of the movement task.
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