Serial sarcomere number is substantially decreased within the paretic biceps brachii in individuals with chronic hemiparetic stroke

Amy N. Adkins, Julius P.A. Dewald, Lindsay P. Garmirian, Christa M. Nelson, Wendy M. Murray*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


A muscle’s structure, or architecture, is indicative of its function and is plastic; changes in input to or use of the muscle alter its architecture. Stroke-induced neural deficits substantially alter both input to and usage of individual muscles. We combined in vivo imaging methods (second-harmonic generation microendoscopy, extended field-of-view ultrasound, and fat-suppression MRI) to quantify functionally meaningful architecture parameters in the biceps brachii of both limbs of individuals with chronic hemiparetic stroke and in age-matched, unimpaired controls. Specifically, serial sarcomere number (SSN) and physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA) were calculated from data collected at three anatomical scales: sarcomere length, fascicle length, and muscle volume. The interlimb differences in SSN and PCSA were significantly larger for stroke participants than for participants without stroke (P = 0.0126 and P = 0.0042, respectively), suggesting we observed muscle adaptations associated with stroke rather than natural interlimb variability. The paretic biceps brachii had ∼8,200 fewer serial sarcomeres and ∼2 cm2 smaller PCSA on average than the contralateral limb (both P < 0.0001). This was manifested by substantially smaller muscle volumes (112 versus 163 cm3), significantly shorter fascicles (11.0 versus 14.0 cm; P < 0.0001), and comparable sarcomere lengths (3.55 versus 3.59 μm; P = 0.6151) between limbs. Most notably, this study provides direct evidence of the loss of serial sarcomeres in human muscle observed in a population with neural impairments that lead to disuse and chronically place the affected muscle at a shortened position. This adaptation is consistent with functional consequences (increased passive resistance to elbow extension) that would amplify already problematic, neurally driven motor impairments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2008597118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
StatePublished - Jun 29 2021


  • Fascicle
  • Imaging
  • Muscle
  • Sarcomere
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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