The purpose of the study was to compare the discharge characteristics of single motor units during sustained isometric contractions that required either force or position control in left-handed individuals. The target force for the two sustained contractions (24.9 ± 10.5% maximal force) was identical for each biceps brachii motor unit (n = 32) and set at 4.7 ± 2.0% of maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) force above its recruitment threshold (range: 0.5–41.2% MVC force). The contractions were not sustained to task failure, but the duration (range: 60–330 s) was identical for each motor unit and the decline in MVC force immediately after the sustained contractions was similar for the two tasks (force: 11.1% ± 13.7%; position: 11.6% ± 9.9%). Despite a greater increase in the rating of perceived exertion during the position task (task × time interaction, P < 0.006), the amplitude of the surface-recorded electromyogram for the agonist and antagonist muscles increased similarly during the two tasks. Nonetheless, mean discharge rate of the biceps brachii motor units declined more during the position task (task × time interaction, P < 0.01) and the variability in discharge times (coefficient of variation for interspike interval) increased only during the position task (task × time interaction, P < 0.008). When combined with the results of an identical study on right-handers (Mottram CJ, Jakobi JM, Semmler JG, Enoka RM. J Neurophysiol 93: 1381–1392, 2005), the findings indicate that handedness does not influence the adjustments in biceps brachii motor unit activity during sustained submaximal contractions requiring either force or position control.
- force control
- position control
- discharge characteristics
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