The human central nervous system transmits common synaptic inputs to distinct motor neuron pools during non-synergistic digit actions

A. Del Vecchio, C. M. Germer, L. A. Elias, Q. Fu, J. Fine, M. Santello, D. Farina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Key points: Neural connectivity between distinct motor neuronal modules in the spinal cord is classically studied through electrical stimulation or multi-muscle EMG recordings. We quantified the strength of correlation in the activity of two distinct populations of motor neurons innervating the thenar and first dorsal interosseous muscles during tasks that required the two hand muscles to exert matched or un-matched forces in different directions. We show that when the two hand muscles are concurrently activated, synaptic input to the two motor neuron pools is shared across all frequency bandwidths (representing cortical and spinal input) associated with force control. The observed connectivity indicates that motor neuron pools receive common input even when digit actions do not belong to a common behavioural repertoire. Abstract: Neural connectivity between distinct motor neuronal modules in the spinal cord is classically studied through electrical stimulation or multi-muscle EMG recordings. Here we quantify the strength of correlation in the activity of two distinct populations of motor neurons innervating the thenar and first dorsal interosseous muscles in humans during voluntary contractions. To remove confounds associated with previous studies, we used a task that required the two hand muscles to exert matched or un-matched forces in different directions. Despite the force production task consisting of uncommon digit force coordination patterns, we found that synaptic input to motor neurons is shared across all frequency bands, reflecting cortical and spinal inputs associated with force control. The coherence between discharge timings of the two pools of motor neurons was significant at the delta (0–5 Hz), alpha (5–15 Hz) and beta (15–35 Hz) bands (P < 0.05). These results suggest that correlated input to motor neurons of two hand muscles can occur even during tasks not belonging to a common behavioural repertoire and despite lack of common innervation. Moreover, we show that the extraction of activity from motor neurons during voluntary force control removes cross-talk associated with global EMG recordings, thus allowing direct in vivo interrogation of spinal motor neuron activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Physiology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019

Keywords

  • coherence
  • muscle synergy
  • neural connectivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology

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