Approaches to revealing the neural basis of muscle synergies: a review and a critique
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AbstractThe central nervous system (CNS) may produce coordinated motor outputs via the combination of motor modules representable as muscle synergies. Identification of muscle synergies has hitherto relied on applying factorization algorithms to multimuscle electromyographic data (EMGs) recorded during motor behaviors. Recent studies have attempted to validate the neural basis of the muscle synergies identified by independently retrieving the muscle synergies through CNS manipulations and analytic techniques such as spike-triggered averaging of EMGs. Experimental data have demonstrated the pivotal role of the spinal premotor interneurons in the synergies' organization and the presence of motor cortical loci whose stimulations offer access to the synergies, but whether the motor cortex is also involved in organizing the synergies has remained unsettled. We argue that one difficulty inherent in current approaches to probing the synergies' neural basis is that the EMG generative model based on linear combination of synergies and the decomposition algorithms used for synergy identification are not grounded on enough prior knowledge from neurophysiology. Progress may be facilitated by constraining or updating the model and algorithms with knowledge derived directly from CNS manipulations or recordings. An investigative framework based on evaluating the relevance of neurophysiologically constrained models of muscle synergies to natural motor behaviors will allow a more sophisticated understanding of motor modularity, which will help the community move forward from the current debate on the neural versus nonneural origin of muscle synergies.
All Author(s) ListVincent C.K. Cheung, Kazuhiko Seki
Journal nameJournal of Neurophysiology
Volume Number125
Issue Number5
Pages1580 - 1597
LanguagesEnglish-United Kingdom

Last updated on 2021-04-05 at 16:30