While the effects of sensory feedback on bimanual tasks have been studied extensively at two ends of the motor control hierarchy, the cortical and behavioral levels, much less is known about how it affects the intermediate levels, including neural control of homologous muscle groups. We investigated the effects of somatosensory input on the neural coupling between homologous arm muscles during bimanual tasks. Twelve subjects performed symmetric elbow flexion/extension tasks under different types of sensory feedback. The first two types involve visual feedback, with one imposing stricter force symmetry than the other. The third incorporated somatosensory feedback via a balancing apparatus that forced the two limbs to produce equal force levels. Although the force error did not differ between feedback conditions, the somatosensory feedback significantly increased temporal coupling of bilateral force production, indicated by a high correlation between left/right force profiles (P < 0.001). More importantly, intermuscular coherence between biceps brachii muscles was significantly higher with somatosensory feedback than others (P = 0.001). Coherence values also significantly differed between tasks (flexion/extension). Notably, whereas feedback type mainly modulated coherence in the α- and γ-bands, task type only affected β-band coherence. Similar feedback effects were observed for triceps brachii muscles, but there was also a strong phase effect on the coherence values (P < 0.001) that could have diluted feedback effects. These results suggest that somatosensory feedback can significantly increase neural coupling between homologous muscles. Additionally, the between-task difference in β-band coherence may reflect different neural control strategies for the elbow flexor and extensor muscles.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY This study investigated the effects of somatosensory feedback during bimanual tasks on the neural coupling between arm muscles, which remains largely unexplored. Somatosensory feedback using a balancing apparatus, compared with visual feedback, significantly increased neural coupling between homologous muscles (indicated by intermuscular coherence values) and improved temporal correlation of bilateral force production. Notably, feedback type modulated coherence in the α- and γ-bands (more subcortical pathways), whereas task type mainly affected β-band coherence (corticospinal pathway).
- bimanual task
- sensory feedback
- somatosensory feedback
- motor control
- intermuscular coherence
- Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society
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