Hemispheric brain injury resulting from a stroke is often accompanied by muscle weakness in contralateral limbs. In neurologically intact subjects, appropriate motoneuronal recruitment and rate modulation are utilized to optimize muscle force production. In the present study, we sought to determine whether weakness in an affected hand muscle in stroke survivors is partially attributable to alterations in the control of muscle activation. Specifically, our goal was to characterize whether the surface EMG amplitude was systematically larger as a function of (low) force in paretic hand muscles as compared to contralateral muscles in the same subject. We tested a multifunctional muscle, the first dorsal interosseous (FDI), in multiple directions about the second metacarpophalangeal joint in ten hemiparetic and six neurologically intact subjects. In six of the ten stroke subjects, the EMG–force slope was significantly greater on the affected side as compared to the contralateral side, as well as compared to neurologically intact subjects. An unexpected set of results was a nonlinear relation between recorded EMG and generated force commonly observed in the paretic FDI, even at very low-force levels. We discuss possible experimental as well as physiological factors that may contribute to an increased EMG–force slope, concluding that changes in motor unit (MU) control are the most likely reasons for the observed changes.
- First dorsal interosseous
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