The Cellular Basis for the Generation of Firing Patterns in Human Motor Units

Obaid U. Khurram, Gregory E.P. Pearcey, Matthieu K. Chardon, Edward H. Kim, Marta García, C. J. Heckman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


Motor units, which comprise a motoneuron and the set of muscle fibers it innervates, are the fundamental neuromuscular transducers for all motor commands. The one to one relationship between a motoneuron and its innervated muscle fibers allow motoneuron firing patterns to be readily measured in humans. In this chapter, we summarize the current understanding of the cellular basis for the generation of firing patterns in human motor units. We provide a brief review of landmark insights from classic studies and then proceed to consider the features of motor unit firing patterns that are most likely to be sensitive estimators of motoneuron inputs and properties. In addition, we discuss recent advances in technology for recording human motor unit firing patterns and highly realistic computer simulations of motoneurons. The final section presents our recent efforts to use the power of supercomputers for implementation of the motoneuron models, with a goal of achieving a true “reverse engineering” approach that maximizes the insights from motor unit firing patterns into the synaptic structure of motor commands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Neurobiology
Number of pages26
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NameAdvances in Neurobiology
ISSN (Print)2190-5215
ISSN (Electronic)2190-5223


  • Motoneuron
  • Motor control
  • Motor unit
  • Neuromodulation
  • Persistent inward currents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Biochemistry


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