Mechanical assistance on joint movement is generally beneficial; however, its effects on cooperative performance and muscle activity needs to be further explored. This study examined how motor performance and muscle activity are altered when mechanical assistance is provided during isometric force control of ramp-down and hold phases. Thirteen right-handed participants (age: 24.7 ± 1.8 years) performed trajectory tracking tasks. Participants were asked to maintain the reference magnitude of 47 N (REF) during isometric elbow flexion. The force was released to a step-down magnitude of either 75% REF or 50% REF and maintained, with and without mechanical assistance. The ramp-down durations of force release were set to 0.5, 2.5, or 5.0 s. Throughout the experiment, we measured the following: (1) the force output using load cells to compute force variability and overshoot ratio; (2) peak perturbation on the elbow movement using an accelerometer; (3) the surface electromyography (sEMG) from biceps brachii and triceps brachii muscles; and (4) EMG oscillation from the biceps brachii muscle in the bandwidth of 15–45 Hz. Our results indicated that mechanical assistance, which involved greater peak perturbation, demonstrated lower force variability than non-assistance (p < 0.01), while EMG oscillation in the biceps brachii muscle from 15 to 45 Hz was increased (p < 0.05). These findings imply that if assistive force is provided during isometric force control, the central nervous system actively tries to stabilize motor performance by controlling specific motor unit activity in the agonist muscle.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
- Clinical Neurology