Mapping muscles activation to force perception during unloading

Simone Toma, Francesco Lacquaniti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


It has been largely proved that while judging a force humans mainly rely on the motor commands produced to interact with that force (i.e., sense of effort). Despite of a large bulk of previous investigations interested in understanding the contributions of the descending and ascending signals in force perception, very few attempts have been made to link a measure of neural output (i.e., EMG) to the psychophysical performance. Indeed, the amount of correlation between EMG activity and perceptual decisions can be interpreted as an estimate of the contribution of central signals involved in the sensation of force. In this study we investigated this correlation by measuring the muscular activity of eight arm muscles while participants performed a quasi-isometric force detection task. Here we showed a method to quantitatively describe muscular activity ("muscle-metric function") that was directly comparable to the description of the participants' psychophysical decisions about the stimulus force. We observed that under our experimental conditions, muscle-metric absolute thresholds and the shape of the muscle-metric curves were closely related to those provided by the psychophysics. In fact a global measure of the muscles considered was able to predict approximately 60% of the perceptual decisions total variance. Moreover the inter-subjects differences in psychophysical sensitivity showed high correlation with both participants' muscles sensitivity and participants' joint torques. Overall, our findings gave insights into both the role played by the corticospinal motor commands while performing a force detection task and the influence of the gravitational muscular torque on the estimation of vertical forces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0152552
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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