Reciprocal and coactivation commands at the level of individual motor units in an extrinsic finger flexor–extensor muscle pair

Shirin Madarshahian, Mark L. Latash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We explored the synergic organization of motor units in extrinsic finger muscles, flexor digitorum superficialis (FDS), and extensor digitorum communis (EDC). Healthy subjects produced accurate cyclical force by pressing with the middle phalanges of one of the three fingers (Index, Middle, and Ring) and all three together. Two wireless sensor arrays were used to record and identify motor unit action potentials in FDS and EDC. Stable motor unit groups were identified within each muscle and across both muscles. Analysis of motor units combined over the two muscles showed one of the first two motor unit groups with consistently opposite signs of the loading factors for the FDS and EDC motor units, and the other group with consistently same signs of the loading factors for the two muscles. We interpret the two motor unit groups as reflections of the reciprocal and co-activation commands within the theory of control with spatial referent coordinates. Force changes within the cycle were primarily associated with the modulation of the co-activation motor unit group. Analysis of inter-cycle variance within the spaces of motor unit groups defined for FDS and EDC separately showed force-stabilizing synergies across both single-finger and three-finger tasks. In contrast, analysis within the motor unit groups defined across both muscles failed to show force-stabilizing synergies. We interpret these results as a reflection of the trade-off across levels within a hierarchical control system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalExperimental Brain Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)

Cite this