Dissociation of the electrical and contractile properties in single human motor units during fatigue
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The surface EMG area often exhibits progressive enlargement during a submaximal fatiguing contraction, but the underlying reasons still remain uncertain. Fatigue-induced changes in the surface-detected motor unit action potentials (S-MUAPs) of 10 human thenar motor units (MUs) with widely differing physiological properties were examined. After 2 min of repetitive 40-Hz stimulation, the size of the S-MUAPs of all MUs increased, the magnitude of which was negatively correlated with their tetanic tension changes. These findings suggest that during muscle fatigue, in addition to reflecting recruitment of new MUs and increases in firing rates of the active MUs, the surface EMG may also be markedly influenced by changes in the S-MUAPs, especially in fast fatigable muscles.
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