The influence of visual information on multi-muscle control during quiet stance: a spectral analysis approach
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Standing upright requires the coordination of neural drives to a large set of muscles involved in controlling human bipedal stance (i.e., postural muscles). The coordination may deteriorate in situations where standing is performed under more challenging circumstances, such as standing on a smaller base of support or not having adequate visual information. The present study investigates the role of common neural inputs in the organization of multi-muscle synergies and the effects of visual input disruption to this mechanism of control. We analyzed the strength and distribution of correlated neural inputs (measured by intermuscular coherence) to six postural muscles previously recognized as components of synergistic groups involved in the maintenance of the body's vertical positioning. Two experimental conditions were studied: quiet bipedal stance performed with opened eyes (OEs) and closed eyes (CEs). Nine participants stood quietly for 30 s while the activity of the soleus, biceps femoris, lumbar erector spinae, tibialis anterior, rectus femoris, and rectus abdominis muscles were recorded using surface electrodes. Intermuscular (EMG-EMG) coherence was estimated for 12 muscle pairs formed by these muscles, including pairs formed solely by either posterior, anterior, or mixed (one posterior and one anterior) muscles. Intermuscular coherence was only found to be significant for muscle pairs formed solely by either posterior or anterior muscles, and no significant coherence was found for mixed muscle pairs. Significant intermuscular coherence was only found within a distinct frequency interval bounded between 1 and 10 Hz when visual input was available (OEs trials). The strength of correlated neural inputs was similar across muscle pairs located in different joints but executing a similar function (pushing body either backward or forward) suggesting that synergistic postural groups are likely formed based on their functional role instead of their anatomical location. Absence of visual information caused a significant decrease in intermuscular coherence. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that correlated neural inputs are a mechanism used by the CNS to assemble synergistic muscle groups. Further, this mechanism is affected by interruption of visual input.