Activation of individual extrinsic thumb muscles and compartments of extrinsic finger muscles

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16 Scopus citations


Mechanical and neurological couplings exist between musculotendon units of the human hand and digits. Studies have begun to understand how these muscles interact when accomplishing everyday tasks, but there are still unanswered questions regarding the control limitations of individual muscles. Using intramuscular electromyographic (EMG) electrodes, this study examined subjects' ability to individually initiate and sustain three levels of normalized muscular activity in the index and middle finger muscle compartments of extensor digitorum communis (EDC), flexor digitorum profundus (FDP), and flexor digitorum superficialis (FDS), as well as the extrinsic thumb muscles abductor pollicis longus (APL), extensor pollicis brevis (EPB), extensor pollicis longus (EPL), and flexor pollicis longus (FPL). The index and middle finger compartments each sustained activations with significantly different levels of coactivity from the other finger muscle compartments. The middle finger compartment of EDC was the exception. Only two extrinsic thumb muscles, EPL and FPL, were capable of sustaining individual activations from the other thumb muscles, at all tested activity levels. Activation of APL was achieved at 20 and 30% MVC activity levels with significantly different levels of coactivity. Activation of EPB elicited coactivity levels from EPL and APL that were not significantly different. These results suggest that most finger muscle compartments receive unique motor commands, but of the four thumb muscles, only EPL and FPL were capable of individually activating. This work is encouraging for the neural control of prosthetic limbs because these muscles and compartments may potentially serve as additional user inputs to command prostheses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1385-1392
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 15 2013


  • Extrinsic muscles
  • Finger control
  • Intramuscular EMG
  • Prosthetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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