Developmental improvements in dynamic manipulation abilities are typically attributed to neural maturation, such as myelination of corticospinal pathways, neuronal pruning, and synaptogenesis. However the contributions from changes in the peripheral motor system are less well understood. Here we investigated whether there are developmental changes in muscle activation-contraction dynamics and whether these changes contribute to improvements in dynamic manipulation in humans.Wecompared pinch strength, dynamic manipulation ability, and contraction time of the first dorsal interosseous muscle in typically developing preadolescent, adolescent, and young adults. Both strength and dynamic manipulation ability increased with age (p<0.0001 and p< 0.00001, respectively). Surprisingly, adults had a 33% lower muscle contraction time compared with preadolescents (p< 0.01), and contraction time showed a significant (p<0.005) association with dynamic manipulation abilities. Whereas decreases in muscle contraction time during development have been reported in the animal literature, our finding, to our knowledge, is the first report of this phenomenon in humans and the first finding of its association with manipulation. Consequently, the changes in the muscle contractile properties could be an important complement to neural maturation in the development of dynamic manipulation. These findings have important implications for understanding central and peripheral contributors to deficits in manipulation in atypical development, such as in children with cerebral palsy.
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