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Slow Intermuscular Oscillations are Associated with Cocontraction Steadiness


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: September 2017 - Volume 49 - Issue 9 - p 1955–1964
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001302
Applied Sciences

Purpose Voluntary muscle contraction often involves low-frequency correlated neural oscillations across muscles, which may degrade steady cocontraction between antagonistic muscles with distinct levels of activation per each muscle (unbalanced cocontraction). The purposes of the study were 1) to determine whether there is an association between the low-frequency correlated EMG oscillations and the performance of steady unbalanced cocontraction across individuals and 2) to determine whether a bout of out-of-phase cocontraction practice reduces the in-phase low-frequency correlated neural oscillations and improves the performance of steady unbalanced cocontraction.

Methods Healthy young adults were divided into three intervention groups: cocontraction, contraction, and control. All participants were tested for unbalanced steady cocontractions with antagonistic muscles about the elbow joint before and after a bout of intervention with the visual feedback of surface EMG. During the intervention period, the cocontraction group practiced an out-of-phase cocontraction, whereas the contraction group practiced agonist contractions.

Results Mean squared error and variance of EMG amplitude were positively correlated with low-frequency EMG coherence <3 Hz across subjects, which became more prevalent after the intervention period. There was no specific effect of the cocontraction intervention on these variables.

Conclusion These findings suggest that individuals with less low-frequency correlated neural oscillations tend to perform steady cocontraction more skillfully, and the low-frequency correlated oscillations may not be acutely modulated by one bout of out-of-phase cocontraction practice.

1School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA; and 2School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA

Address for correspondence: Minoru Shinohara, Ph.D., F.A.C.S.M., School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, 555 14th St. NW, Atlanta, GA 30332-0356; E-mail:

Submitted for publication December 2016.

Accepted for publication April 2017.

© 2017 American College of Sports Medicine