To gain insight into the synergistic control of hand muscles, we have recently quantified the strength of correlated neural activity across motor units from extrinsic digit flexors during a five-digit object-hold task. We found stronger synchrony and coherence across motor units from thumb and index finger flexor muscle compartment than between the thumb flexor and other finger flexor muscle compartments. The present study of two-digit object hold was designed to determine the extent to which such distribution of common input among thumb-finger flexor muscle compartments, revealed by holding an object with five digits, is preserved when varying the functional role of a given digit pair. We recorded normal force exerted by the digits and electrical activity of single motor units from muscle flexor pollicis longus (FPL) and two compartments of the m. flexor digitorum profundus (FDP2 and FDP3; index and middle finger, respectively). Consistent with our previous results from five-digit grasping, synchrony and coherence across motor units from FPL-FDP2 was significantly stronger than in FPL-FDP3 during object hold with two digits [common input strength: 0.49 ± 0.02 and 0.35 ± 0.02 (means ± SE), respectively; peak coherence: 0.0054 and 0.0038, respectively]. This suggests that the distribution of common neural input is muscle-pair specific regardless of grip type. However, the strength of coherence, but not synchrony, was significantly stronger in two- versus five-digit object hold for both muscle combinations, suggesting the periodicity of common input is sensitive to grip type.
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