Control of the motor output depends on our ability to precisely increase and release force. However, the influence of aging on force increase and release remains unknown. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to determine whether force control differs while increasing and releasing force in young and older adults. Sixteen young adults (22.5 ± 4 yr, 8 females) and 16 older adults (75.7 ± 6.4 yr, 8 females) increased and released force at a constant rate (10% maximum voluntary contraction force/s) during an ankle dorsiflexion isometric task. We recorded the force output and multiple motor unit activity from the tibialis anterior (TA) muscle and quantified the following outcomes: 1) variability of force using the SD of force; 2) mean discharge rate and variability of discharge rate of multiple motor units; and 3) power spectrum of the multiple motor units from 0–4, 4–10, 10–35, and 35–60 Hz. Participants exhibited greater force variability while releasing force, independent of age (P < 0.001). Increased force variability during force release was associated with decreased modulation of multiple motor units from 35 to 60 Hz (R2 = 0.38). Modulation of multiple motor units from 35 to 60 Hz was further correlated to the change in mean discharge rate of multiple motor units (r = 0.66) and modulation from 0 to 4 Hz (r = −0.64). In conclusion, these findings suggest that force control is altered while releasing due to an altered modulation of the motor units.
- force variability
- motor unit activity
- decomposition electromyogram
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