Co-contraction uses dual control of agonist-antagonist muscles to improve motor performance [article]

Christopher M Saliba, Michael J Rainbow, W. Scott Selbie, Kevin J. Deluzio, Stephen H. Scott
2020 bioRxiv   pre-print
Co-contraction of agonist-antagonist muscles is commonly observed when performing difficult motor tasks. The benefit of co-contraction is thought to be zero-delay corrections to unexpected disturbances from increased intrinsic muscle impedance. We used upper-limb postural and tracking tasks to characterize the effects of co-contraction on motor corrections to loads applied to the limb. We systematically controlled pre-perturbation muscle activity and showed that co-contraction improves
more » ... n improves subsequent corrective responses in both tasks. However, substantial improvements in the corrective response are only observed at the time when neural feedback pathways can also contribute. We demonstrate that muscle impedance appears to play a minor role in improving performance. Instead, co-contraction engages a dual agonist-antagonist control strategy to counter disturbances, that is distinct from the control strategy used when not co-contracting or selectively pre-activating a single muscle group. Critically, we showed that this dual agonist-antagonist control strategy improved performance even at low levels of co-contraction.
doi:10.1101/2020.03.16.993527 fatcat:45ajtiqfizcwndfhlp42ocnmdi