Neuroanatomical Basis of Individuality in Muscle Tuning Function: Neural Correlates of Muscle Tuning

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In a conventional view of motor control, the human brain might employ an optimization principle that leads a stereotypical motor behavior which we observe as an averaged behavioral data over subjects. In this scenario, the inter-individual motor variability is considered as an observation noise. Here, we challenged this view. We considered a motor control task where the human participants manipulated arm force by coordinating shoulder and elbow torques and investigated the muscle-tuning function that represents how the brain distributed the ideal joint torques to multiple muscles. In the experimental data, we observed large inter-individual variability in the profile of a muscle-tuning function. This contradicts with a well-established optimization theory that is based on minimization of muscle energy consumption and minimization of motor variability. We then hypothesized the inter-subject differences in the structure of the motor cortical areas might be the source of the across-subjects variability of the motor behavior. This was supported by a voxel-based morphometry analysis of magnetic resonance imaging; The inter-individual variability of the muscle tuning profile was correlated with that of the gray matter volume in the premotor cortex which is ipsilateral to the used arm (i.e., right hemisphere for the right arm). This study suggests that motor individuality may originate from inter-individual variation in the cortical structure.


  • Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience

    Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience (13), 28, 2019-03



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