Research Topic

Muscle Mechanics, Extracellular Matrix, Afferentation, Structural and Neurological Coupling and Coordination in Health and Disease

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There is a growing emphasis on the importance of muscle’s extracellular matrix on muscular mechanics and specifically on the effects of the interaction of the extracellular matrix and the contractile apparatus. Including also structural and neurological coupling among muscles and spinal/supra-spinal ...

There is a growing emphasis on the importance of muscle’s extracellular matrix on muscular mechanics and specifically on the effects of the interaction of the extracellular matrix and the contractile apparatus. Including also structural and neurological coupling among muscles and spinal/supra-spinal circuitry, neuro-musculo-skeletal mechanics is a multi-scale and challenging research topic, which bares unknowns per each scale, as well as regarding linking of those different scales towards an improved understanding of coordinated bodily movement. Achievement of this understanding requires novel methodologies and viewpoints to be developed and implemented.

One particular challenge is to quantify length changes of sarcomeres. However, this is not only a methodological challenge, but involves also a viewpoint challenge: a research approach based on isolated vs. mechanically integrated muscle structural entities yields quite different considerations. Resulting prospects range from homogeneous sarcomere lengths or amplitude-wise varying but the same direction of length changes, to both amplitude and direction-wise heterogeneous length changes within the muscle fibers. These issues have a strong effect on the way muscles produce limb forces and movement. Yet, they also have a major relevance for our understanding of pathological function in disease. This is specifically relevant for spastic cerebral palsy as this condition features limited joint range of motion, agonist/antagonist force imbalance, exaggerated stretch reflexes and compromised coordination. However, there is a lack of detailed understanding of mechanics of muscle in cerebral palsy and other pathologies such as brachial plexus injury, spinal cord injuries, stroke as well as healthy aging. In addition, the mechanisms by which surgical, non-surgical, and pharmacological treatments affect muscle function remain unclear. Recent advances make it opportune and crucial to gain insight into fundamental and clinical features of muscle mechanics.

This Research Topic focuses on studies (including e.g. original research, perspectives, minireviews, commentaries, opinion papers and case reports) that investigate and discuss:

1) The role of muscle extracellular matrix and other myofascial tissues continuous with the epimysium on muscle’s force production
2) Methods to quantify sarcomere length changes and viewpoints on sarcomere length heterogeneity/homogeneity along muscle fibers
3) Novel computational and experimental approaches on muscle mechanics, architecture, afferentation, control and coordination
4) Approaches to link different scales of neuro-musculo-skeletal mechanics from sarcomere level to whole body level
5) Clinical implications: mechanisms of pathological conditions and treatment techniques with a special emphasis on spastic cerebral palsy

Disclosure statement: Topic Editor Prof. Silvia Salinas Blemker is a Co-founder and Vice President of Springbok, Inc. Charlottesville, VA. All other Topic Editors declare no competing interests with regards to the Research Topic subject.



Keywords: Muscle Mechanics, Extracellular Matrix, Connective Tissue, Neuromusculoskeletal Interaction, Adaptation, Pathology


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