Estimates of persistent inward currents in tibialis anterior motor units during standing ramped contraction tasks in humans

Obaid U. Khurram, Francesco Negro, C. J. Heckman, Christopher K. Thompson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Persistent inward currents (PICs) play an essential role in setting motor neuron gain and shaping motor unit firing patterns. Estimates of PICs in humans can be made using the paired motor unit analysis technique, which quantifies the difference in discharge rate of a lower threshold motor unit at the recruitment onset and offset of a higher threshold motor unit (DF). Because PICs are highly dependent on the level of neuromodulatory drive, DF represents an estimate of level of neuromodulation at the level of the spinal cord. Most of the estimates of DF are performed under constrained, isometric, seated conditions. In the present study, we used high-density surface EMG arrays to discriminate motor unit firing patterns during isometric seated conditions with torque or EMG visual feedback and during unconstrained standing anterior-to-posterior movements with root mean square EMG visual feedback. We were able to apply the paired motor unit analysis technique to the decomposed motor units in each of the three conditions. We hypothesized that DF would be higher during unconstrained standing anterior-to-posterior movements compared with the seated conditions, reflecting an increase in the synaptic input to motoneurons drive while standing. In agreement with previous work, we found that there was no evidence of a difference in DF between the seated and standing postures, although slight differences in the initial and peak discharge rates were observed. Taken together, our results suggest that both the standing and seated postures are likely not sufficiently different, both being “upright” postures, to result in large changes in neuromodulatory drive. NEW & NOTEWORTHY In the present study, we show that the discharge rate of a lower threshold motor unit at the recruitment onset and offset of a higher threshold motor unit (DF) is similar between standing and seated conditions in human tibialis anterior motor units, suggesting that at least for these two upright postures neuromodulatory drive is similar. We also highlight a proposed technological development in using high-density EMG arrays for real-time muscle activity feedback to accomplish standing ramped contraction tasks and demonstrate the validity of the paired motor unit analysis technique during these conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)264-274
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Volume126
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Keywords

  • EMG
  • Motoneuron
  • Motor unit
  • PIC
  • Posture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology

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