Motor unit composition has little effect on the short-range stiffness of feline medial gastrocnemius muscle

Lei Cui, Eric J. Perreault, Thomas G. Sandercock*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Studies on skinned fibers and single motor units have indicated that slow-twitch fibers are stiffer than fast-twitch fibers. This suggests that skeletal muscles with different motor unit compositions may have different short-range stiffness (SRS) properties. Furthermore, the natural recruitment of slow before fast motor units may result in an SRS-force profile that is different from electrical stimulation. However, muscle architecture and the mechanical properties of surrounding tissues also contribute to the net SRS of a muscle, and it remains unclear how these structural features each contribute to the SRS of a muscle. In this study, the SRS-force characteristics of cat medial gastrocnemius muscle were measured during natural activation using the crossed-extension reflex, which activates slow before fast motor units, and during electrical activation, in which all motor units are activated synchronously. Short, rapid, isovelocity stretches were applied using a linear puller to measure SRS across the range of muscle forces. Data were collected from eight animals. Although there was a trend toward greater stiffness during natural activation, this trend was small and not statistically significant across the population of animals tested. A simple model, in which the slow-twitch fibers were assumed to be 30% stiffer than the fast-twitch fibers, was used to simulate the experimental results. Experimental and simulated results show that motor unit composition or firing rate has little effect on the SRS property of the cat MG muscle, suggesting that architectural features may be the primary determinant of SRS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)796-802
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2007


  • Architecture
  • Firing rate
  • Passive tissues

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Motor unit composition has little effect on the short-range stiffness of feline medial gastrocnemius muscle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this