Standing task difficulty related increase in agonist-agonist and agonist-antagonist common inputs are driven by corticospinal and subcortical inputs respectively.
Nandi T., Hortobágyi T., van Keeken HG., Salem GJ., Lamoth CJC.
In standing, coordinated activation of lower extremity muscles can be simplified by common neural inputs to muscles comprising a functional synergy. We examined the effect of task difficulty on common inputs to agonist-agonist (AG-AG) pairs supporting direction specific reciprocal muscle control and agonist-antagonist (AG-ANT) pairs supporting stiffness control. Since excessive stiffness is energetically costly and limits the flexibility of responses to perturbations, compared to AG-ANT, we expected greater AG-AG common inputs and a larger increase with increasing task difficulty. We used coherence analysis to examine common inputs in three frequency ranges which reflect subcortical/spinal (0-5 and 6-15 Hz) and corticospinal inputs (6-15 and 16-40 Hz). Coherence was indeed higher in AG-AG compared to AG-ANT muscles in all three frequency bands, indicating a predilection for functional synergies supporting reciprocal rather than stiffness control. Coherence increased with increasing task difficulty, only in AG-ANT muscles in the low frequency band (0-5 Hz), reflecting subcortical inputs and only in AG-AG group in the high frequency band (16-40 Hz), reflecting corticospinal inputs. Therefore, common neural inputs to both AG-AG and AG-ANT muscles increase with difficulty but are likely driven by different sources of input to spinal alpha motor neurons.