EMG responses to load perturbations of the upper limb: effect of dynamic coupling between shoulder and elbow motion

F. Lacquaniti, J. F. Soechting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Load perturbations were applied to the arm of human subjects under conditions where both limb segments (upper arm and forearm) were free to move. The perturbations consisted of pulses of torque 50 ms in duration and of pseudo-random sequences of such pulses. They were applied to either the forearm or the upper arm. Under all conditions, the perturbations resulted in angular motion at the shoulder and elbow joints and evoked consistent responses in muscles acting about these joints (biceps, triceps, anterior and posterior deltoid). Activity in biceps and triceps was not related simply to angular motion at the elbow joint. For example, activation of biceps could be evoked during elbow flexion (by applying a torque perturbation at the shoulder) as well as during elbow extension (by applying a torque perturbation at the elbow). The effect of varying degrees of dynamic coupling between upper arm and forearm on EMG responses was investigated by applying torque perturbations to the upper arm over a wide range of elbow angles. When the forearm is extended, such a perturbation induces a greater amount of elbow flexion than when the forearm is in a flexed position. The results of these experiments showed that the larger was the amount of flexion of the forearm induced by the perturbation, the larger was the activation of biceps. The results are incompatible with the notion of a negative feedback of total muscle length as being responsible for the EMG activity following the load perturbations. It is suggested that the EMG responses can best be interpreted functionally in terms of parameters more global than muscle length. Among such global parameters, changes in net torque at a joint resulting from the perturbation gave the best correlation with the pattern of EMG activities observed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-496
Number of pages15
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1986


  • Feedback control
  • Load perturbations
  • Multijointed limb

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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