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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Physiol. | doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.01231

A comprehensive spatial mapping of muscle synergies in highly variable upper-limb movements of healthy subjects

 Alessandro Scano1*,  Luca Dardari2,  Franco Molteni3, Hermes Giberti2, Lorenzo Molinari Tosatti1 and  Andrea d'Avella4, 5
  • 1Italian National Research Council (CNR), Italy
  • 2Politecnico di Milano, Italy
  • 3Villa Beretta Centro di Riabilitazione, Italy
  • 4Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche, Odontoiatriche e delle Immagini Morfologiche e Funzionali, Universita' degli Studi di Messina, Italy
  • 5Laboratory of Neuromotor Physiology, Santa Lucia Foundation (IRCCS), Italy

Background: Recently, muscle synergy analysis has become a standard methodology for extracting coordination patterns from electromyographic (EMG) signals, and for the evaluation of motor control strategies in many contexts. Most previous studies have characterized upper-limb muscle synergies across a limited set of reaching movements. With the aim of future uses in motor control, rehabilitation and other fields, this study provides a comprehensive characterization of muscle synergies in a large set of upper-limb tasks and considers subjective and environmental variability.
Methods: 16 healthy subjects performed upper-limb hand exploration tasks and point-to-point movements in a comprehensive mapping of the upper-limb workspace, which was divided into several sectors (Namely: Frontal, Right, Left, Horizontal and Up). EMGs from representative upper-limb muscles and kinematics were recorded to extract muscle synergies and explore the composition, repeatability and similarity of spatial synergies across subjects and movement directions, in a context of high variability of motion.
Results: Even in a context of high variability, a reduced set of muscle synergies may reconstruct the original EMG envelopes. Composition, repeatability and similarity of synergies were found to be shared across subjects and sectors, but with some dependence on the choice of the experimental design and the parameters for the data pre-processing.
Conclusions: Extending the results of previous studies on a smaller set of conditions, a limited number of muscle synergies underlie the execution of a large variety of upper-limb tasks. However, the considered spatial domain and the variability seem to influence the number and composition of muscle synergies. Such detailed characterization of the modular organization of the muscle patterns for upper-limb control in a large variety of tasks may provide a useful reference for studies on motor control, rehabilitation, industrial applications and sports.

Keywords: muscle synergies, motor control, Upper-Limb Workspace, synergy clustering, Centroids

Received: 18 Jun 2019; Accepted: 09 Sep 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Scano, Dardari, Molteni, Giberti, Molinari Tosatti and d'Avella. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: PhD. Alessandro Scano, Italian National Research Council (CNR), Rome, Italy,