Two components of muscle activation: Scaling with the speed of arm movement

M. Flanders, U. Herrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


The temporal waveform of muscle activity was related to the speed of arm movement. Speed was expressed in terms of the duration of a fixed amplitude movement or the 'movement time.' Human subjects moved their arms to targets in three-dimensional space. The right arm started at a standard initial position and moved directly to the target in a single stroke. The targets were placed in various directions in a vertical plane. The arm movements consisted of shoulder and elbow rotations. Subjects were required to vary the speed of their movements. In most of the experiments, trials with different movement times were randomly ordered. One of the experiments also included randomly interspersed static trials, in which the subject held the arm still at the initial posture, the final posture, or halfway between the two extremes. Electromyographic (EMG) activity was recorded from several superficial elbow and/or shoulder muscles. The time base of rectified EMG records was normalized for movement time such that records from movements with various speeds were compressed to align the ending times of the movements. A principal component (PC) analysis revealed that the compressed EMG waveforms could be described by a summation of PC1 and PC2 waveforms; each individual EMG waveform was approximated by a weighted sum of these two components. The PC1 weighting coefficients scaled down in a monotonic relationship with movement time such that the fastest movement corresponded to a large positive weighting coefficient and the slowest movement corresponded to a small positive weighting coefficient. The PC2 weighting coefficients exhibited a similar monotonic scaling, but the values ranged from positive to negative. Further analysis demonstrated that these two components can be mathematically transformed into a tonic waveform with a constant weighting coefficient and a phasic waveform with positive weighting coefficients that scale down with movement time. The amplitude scaling of EMG records cannot be described by a single component, but instead requires a summation of two separate components. The tonic component may correspond to the force element needed to counteract gravity, because the magnitude of this element does not scale with movement speed. The phasic component may correspond to the force element that scales quadratically to produce a linear increase in velocity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)931-943
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1992


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