Postural dependence of muscle actions: Implications for neural control

Christopher A. Buneo, John F. Soechting, Martha Flanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The neural control of reaching entails the specification of a precise pattern of muscle activation distributed across the many muscles of the arm. Musculoskeletal geometry limits the possible solutions to this problem. Insight into the nature of this constraint was obtained by quantifying the postural variation in the mechanical actions of six human shoulder muscles. Estimates of muscle mechanical actions were obtained by electrically stimulating muscles to the point of contraction and recording the resulting forces and torques with a six-degree-of-freedom force-torque transducer. In a given experiment, data were obtained for up to 29 different arm postures. The mechanical actions of each muscle varied systematically with arm posture, regardless of the frame of reference used to define these actions. The nature of this dependence suggests that a relatively simple strategy can be used by the nervous system to account for the changing mechanical actions of arm muscles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2128-2142
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 1997


  • arm movement
  • internal model
  • muscle
  • posture
  • reaching
  • torque


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