Central nervous system modulates the neuromechanical delay in a broad range for the control of muscle force

Alessandro Del Vecchio, Andres Ubeda, Massimo Sartori, Jose M Azorin, Francesco Felici, Dario Farina (Corresponding Author)

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    37 Citations (Scopus)
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    Force is generated by muscle units according to the neural activation sent by motor neurons. The motor unit is therefore the interface between the neural coding of movement and the musculotendinous system. Here we propose a method to accurately measure the latency between an estimate of the neural drive to muscle and force. Further, we systematically investigate this latency, that we refer to as the neuromechanical delay (NMD), as a function of the rate of force generation. In two experimental sessions, eight men performed isometric finger abduction and ankle dorsiflexion sinusoidal contractions at three frequencies and peak-to-peak amplitudes [0.5,1,1.5 (Hz); 1,5,10 of maximal force (%MVC)], with a mean force of 10% MVC. The discharge timings of motor units of the first dorsal interosseous (FDI) and tibialis anterior (TA) muscle were identified by high-density surface EMG decomposition. The neural drive was estimated as the cumulative discharge timings of the identified motor units. The neural drive predicted 80 {plus minus} 0.4% of the force fluctuations and consistently anticipated force by 194.6 {plus minus} 55 ms (average across conditions and muscles). The NMD decreased non-linearly with the rate of force generation (R2 = 0.82 {plus minus} 0.07; exponential fitting) with a broad range of values (from 70 to 385 ms) and was 66 {plus minus} 0.01 ms shorter for the FDI than TA (P<0.001). In conclusion, we provided a method to estimate the delay between the neural control and force generation and we showed that this delay is muscle-dependent and is modulated within a wide range by the central nervous system.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1404-1410
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of applied physiology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2018


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