By using a mathematical model and experiments involving electrical simulation of antagonistic muscles, we have formed the hypothesis (Wierzbicka et al. 1986) that in one-joint movements the antagonist muscle not only provides braking torque but also controls movement time. To get additional experimental support for this hypothesis, we studied elbow flexion movements performed by patients with spinal cord injury at the C 5–6 level who had relatively normal strength in their biceps muscle and little or no voluntary control of the triceps. Seven quadriplegic patients and six control subjects performed elbow flexion movements of 10°, 20°, and 30° “as fast and accurately as possible”. Despite the lack of antagonist, patients used the same “pulse height” strategy as control subjects to scale their responses with movement amplitude. However, patients' movement time was on average twice that of control subjects, and durations of both accelerative and decelerative phases of movement were increased. Movement speed and acceleration were reduced to 20–50% of the corresponding values of control subjects. Patients tended to overshoot the target to a larger extent than control subjects, particularly 10° targets, with nearly twice the error. We performed the same experiments using an external torque motor to assist the weak triceps. When a constant extensor torque of 2.5 or 5 Nm was provided by the motor, patients were able to move faster, and movement accuracy improved to within the normal range. These results provide direct evidence that the lack of an antagonist has an important effect on completion time and accuracy of fast goal-directed movements.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Abeles M (1982) Quantification, smoothing, and confidence limits for single units' histograms. J Neurosci Methods 5:317–325
Brown SHC, Cooke JD (1981) Amplitude and instruction dependent modulation of movement related electromyogram activity in humans. J Physiol (Lond) 316:97–107
Flament D, Hore J, Vilis T (1984) Braking of fast and accurate elbow flexions in the monkey. J Physiol (Lond) 349:195–203
Freund HJ, Budingen HJ (1978) The relationship between speed and amplitude of the fastest voluntary contractions of human arm muscles. Exp Brain Res 31:1–12
Ghez C, Gordon J (1987) Trajectory control in targeted force impulses. I. Role of opposing muscles. Exp Brain Res 67:225–240
Gordon J, Ghez C (1984) EMG patterns in antagonistic muscles during isometric contraction in man: relations to response dynamics. Exp Brain Res 55:167–171
Gordon J, Ghez C (1987a) Trajectory control in targeted force impulses. II. Pulse height control. Exp Brain Res 67:241–252
Gordon J, Ghez C (1987b) Trajectory control in targeted force impulses. III. Compensatory adjustments for initial errors. Exp Brain Res 67:253–269
Gottlieb GL, Corcos DM, Agarwal GC (1989) Strategies for the control of voluntary movements with one mechanical degree of freedom. Behav Brain Sci 12:189–250
Hallett M, Marsden CD (1979) Ballistic flexion movements of the human thumb. J Physiol (Lond) 294:33–50
Hallett M, Shahani BT, Young RR (1975) Analysis of stereotyped voluntary movements in man. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 38:1154–1162
Hannaford B, Stark L (1985) Roles of the elements of the triphasic control signal. Exp Neurol 90:619–634
Hoffman DS, Strick PL (1986) Step-tracking movements of the wrist in humans. I. Kinematic analysis. J Neurosci 6:3309–3312
Hoffman DS, Strick PL (1990) Step-tracking movements of the wrist in humans. II. EMG analysis. J Neurosci 10:142–152
Karst GM, Hasan Z (1987) Antagonist muscle activity during human forearm movements under varying kinematic and loading conditions. Exp Brain Res 67:391–401
Lestienne F (1979) Effects of inertial load and velocity on the braking process of voluntary movements. Exp Brain Res 35:407–418
Marsden CD, Obeso JA, Rothwell JC (1983) The function of the antagonist muscle during fast limb movements in man. J Physiol (Lond) 335:1–13
Meinck H-M, Benecke R, Meyer W, Höhne J, Conrad B (1984) Human ballistic finger flexion: uncoupling of the three-burst pattern. Exp Brain Res 55:127–133
Meyer DE, Smith JEK, Wright CE (1982) Models for the speed and accuracy of aimed movements. Psychol Rev 89:449–482
Mustard BE, Lee RG (1987) Relationship between EMG patterns and kinematic properties for flexion movements at the human wrist. Exp Brain Res 66:247–256
Sanes JN (1986) Kinematics and end-point control of arm movements are modified by unexpected changes in viscous loading. J Neurosci 6(11):3120–3127
Stein RB, Cody WJ, Capaday C (1988) The trajectory of human wrist movements. J Neurophysiol 59(6):1814–1830
Terzuolo CA, Soechting JF, Viviani P (1973) Studies on the control of some simple motor tasks. I. Relations between parameters of movements and EMG activities. Brain Res 58:212–216
Wadman WJ, Denier van den Gon JJ, Geuze RH, Mol CR (1979) Control of fast goal-directed arm movements. J Hum Mov Stud 5:3–17
Wiegner AW, Watts RL (1986) Elastic properties of muscles measured at the elbow in man. I. Normal controls. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 49:1171–1176
Wiegner AW, Wierzbicka MM (1992) Kinematic models and human elbow flexion movements: quantitative analysis. Exp Brain Res 88:665–673
Wierzbicka MM, Wiegner AW, Shahani BT (1986) Role of agonist and antagonist muscles in fast arm movements in man. Exp Brain Res 63:331–340
About this article
Cite this article
Wierzbicka, M.M., Wiegner, A.W. Effects of weak antagonist on fast elbow flexion movements in man. Exp Brain Res 91, 509–519 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00227847
- Voluntary movements
- Antagonist muscle