Neuromuscular-skeletal constraints on the acquisition of skill in a discrete torque production task

J. Shemmell, M. Forner, B. Tathem, J.R. Tresilian, S. Riek, B.K. Barry, Richard Carson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The organisation of the human neuromuscular-skeletal system allows an extremely wide variety of actions to be performed, often with great dexterity. Adaptations associated with skill acquisition occur at all levels of the neuromuscular-skeletal system although all neural adaptations are inevitably constrained by the organisation of the actuating apparatus (muscles and bones). We quantified the extent to which skill acquisition in an isometric task set is influenced by the mechanical properties of the muscles used to produce the required actions. Initial performance was greatly dependent upon the specific combination of torques required in each variant of the experimental task. Five consecutive days of practice improved the performance to a similar degree across eight actions despite differences in the torques required about the elbow and forearm. The proportional improvement in performance was also similar when the actions were performed at either 20 or 40% of participants' maximum voluntary torque capacity. The skill acquired during practice was successfully extrapolated to variants of the task requiring more torque than that required during practice. We conclude that while the extent to which skill can be acquired in isometric actions is independent of the specific combination of joint torques required for target acquisition, the nature of the kinetic adaptations leading to the performance improvement in isometric actions is influenced by the neural and mechanical properties of the actuating muscles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)400-410
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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