Belly dance was used to investigate control of rhythmic undulating trunk movements in humans. Activation patterns in lumbar erector spinae muscles were recorded using surface electromyography at four segmental levels spanning T10 to L4. Muscle activation patterns for movement tempos of 2 Hz, 3 Hz, and as fast as possible (up to 6 Hz) were compared to test the hypothesis that frequency modulates muscle timing, causing pattern changes analogous to gait transitions. Groups of trained and untrained female subjects were compared to test the hypothesis that experience modifies muscle coordination patterns and the capacity for selective motion of spinal segments. Three distinct coordination patterns were observed. An ipsilateral simultaneous pattern (S) and a diagonal synergy (D) dominated at lower frequencies. The S pattern was selected most often by novices and resembled the standing wave of activation underlying the alternating lateral trunk bending in salamander trotting. At 2 Hz, most trained subjects selected the D pattern, suggesting a greater capacity for segmental specificity compared with untrained subjects. At 3–4 Hz, there emerged an asynchronous pattern (A) analogous to the rostral-caudal traveling wave in salamander and lamprey swimming. The neural networks and mechanisms identified in primitive vertebrates, such as chains of coupled oscillators and segmental crossed inhibitory connections, could explain the patterns observed in this study in humans. Training allows modification of these patterns, possibly through improved capacity for selectively exciting or inhibiting segmental pattern generators.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY Belly dance provides a novel approach for studying spinal cord neural circuits. New evidence suggests that primitive locomotor circuits may be conserved in humans. Erector spinae activation patterns during the hip shimmy at different tempos are similar to those observed in salamander walking and swimming. As movement frequency increases, a sequential pattern similar to lamprey swimming emerges, suggesting that primal involuntary control mechanisms dominate in fast lateral rhythmic spine undulations even in humans.
- pattern generators
- spinal cord
- belly dance
- erector spinae
- rhythmic trunk movement
- Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society
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