Neural Mechanisms Underlying Muscle Synergies Involved in the Control of the Human Hand
Committee ChairFuglevand, Andrew J.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe dexterity of the human hand depends largely on the ability to move the fingers independently, the execution of which requires the coordination of multiple muscles. How these muscle ensembles are recruited by the central nervous system is not clear. Therefore, the objective of this dissertation was to identify some of the neural mechanisms whereby certain hand muscles are recruited into functional groups, or muscle synergies, needed for the generation of specific hand and finger movements.We characterized the organization of synaptic inputs onto the motor neurons supplying different compartments of a multi-tendoned finger flexor, the flexor digitorum superficialis (FDS). We found that the motor neurons controlling different finger compartments of the FDS do not receive entirely segregated inputs, and that the motor neurons supplying adjacent compartments receive substantially more common synaptic input than motor neurons supplying compartments further apart. The FDS and another multi-tendoned finger flexor, the flexor digitorum profundus (FDP), both insert onto each finger and function together to flex the fingers. Surprisingly, we found that the motor neurons controlling the compartments of FDS and FDP to the same finger receive completely independent inputs, despite similar mechanical functions of the two muscles. Thus, there is more neural coupling between motor neurons supplying compartments of the same muscle that move different fingers than there is between motor neurons supplying the compartments of two different muscles that move the same finger.Although the motor neurons supplying the flexors of the tips of the thumb [flexor pollicis longus (FPL)] and index finger [index compartment of the flexor digitorum profundus (FDP2)] receive substantial shared synaptic input during a precision grip task, the removal of the normal tactile feedback from the digit pads did not change the amount of common input to the two motor neuron pools, indicating these last-order divergent neurons do not require tactile afferent inputs for activation. Finally, in contrast to the substantial shared input to motor neurons supplying these two extrinsic muscles (FPL and FDP2), the motor neurons supplying two intrinsic muscles of the thumb [adductor pollicis (AdP)] and index finger [first dorsal interosseous (FDI)] were shown to receive few shared inputs during precision grip.