Changes in muscle recruitment patterns during skill acquisition

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42 Citations (Scopus)


The control of movement is predicated upon a system of constraints of musculoskeletal and neural origin. The focus of the present study was upon the manner in which such constraints are adapted or superseded during the acquisition of motor skill. Individuals participated in five experimental sessions, ill which they attempted to produce abduction-adduction movements of the index finger in time with an auditory metronome. During each trial, the metronome frequency was increased in eight steps from an individually determined base frequency. Electromyographic (EMC) activity was recorded from first dorsal interosseous (FDI), first volar interosseous (FVI), flexor digitorum superficialis (FDS), and extensor digitorum communis (EDC) muscles. The movements produced on the final day of acquisition more accurately matched the required profile, and exhibited greater spatial and temporal stability, than those generated during initial performance. Tn the early stages of skill acquisition, an alternating pattern of activation in FDI and FVI was maintained, even at the highest frequencies. Tn contrast, as the frequency of movement was increased, activity in FDS and EDC was either tonic or intermittent. As learning proceeded, alterations in recruitment patterns were expressed primarily in the extrinsic muscles (EDC and FDS). These changes took the form of increases in the postural role of these muscles, shifts to phasic patterns of activation, or selective disengagement of these muscles. These findings suggest that there is considerable flexibility in the composition of muscle synergies, which is exploited by individuals during the acquisition of coordination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-87
Number of pages17
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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