Anatomical and physiological evidence suggests that common input to motor neurons of hand muscles is an important neural mechanism for hand control. To gain insight into the synaptic input underlying the coordination of hand muscles, significant effort has been devoted to describing the distribution of common input across motor units of extrinsic muscles. Much less is known, however, about the distribution of common input to motor units belonging to different intrinsic muscles and to intrinsic-extrinsic muscle pairs. To address this void in the literature, we quantified the incidence and strength of near-simultaneous discharges of motor units residing in either the same or different intrinsic hand muscles (m. first dorsal, FDI, and m. first palmar interosseus, FPI) during two-digit object hold. To extend the characterization of common input to pairs of extrinsic muscles (previous work) and pairs of intrinsic muscles (present work), we also recorded electromyographic (EMG) activity from an extrinsic thumb muscle (m. flexor pollicis longus, FPL). Motor-unit synchrony across FDI and FPI was weak (common input strength, CIS, mean ± SE: 0.17 ± 0.02). Similarly, motor units from extrinsic-intrinsic muscle pairs were characterized by weak synchrony (FPL-FDI: 0.25 ± 0.02; FPL-FPI: 0.29 ± 0.03) although stronger than FDI-FPI. Last, CIS from within FDI and FPI was more than three times stronger (0.70 ± 0.06 and 0.66 ± 0.06, respectively) than across these muscles. We discuss present and previous findings within the framework of muscle-pair specific distribution of common input to hand muscles based on their functional role in grasping.
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