Neck muscle biomechanics and neural control.

Research paper by Jason Bradley JB Fice, Gunter P GP Siegmund, Jean-Sebastien JS Blouin

Indexed on: 19 Apr '18Published on: 19 Apr '18Published in: Journal of neurophysiology


The mechanics, morphometry, and geometry of our joints, segments and muscles are fundamental biomechanical properties intrinsic to human neural control. The goal of our study was to investigate if the biomechanical actions of individual neck muscles predicts their neural control. Specifically, we compared the moment direction & variability produced by electrical stimulation of a neck muscle (biomechanics) to their preferred activation direction & variability (neural control). Subjects sat upright with their head fixed to a 6-axis load cell and their torso restrained. Indwelling wire electrodes were placed into the sternocleidomastoid (SCM), splenius capitis (SPL), and semispinalis capitis (SSC) muscles. The electrically stimulated direction was defined as the moment direction produced when a current (2-19mA) was passed through each muscle's electrodes. Preferred activation direction was defined as the vector sum of the spatial tuning curve built from RMS EMG when subjects produced isometric moments at 7.5% and 15% of their maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) in 26 3D directions. The spatial tuning curves at 15% MVC were well-defined (unimodal, p<0.05) and their preferred directions were 23, 39, & 21{degree sign} different from their electrically stimulated directions for the SCM, SPL, and SSC respectively (p<0.05). Intra-subject variability was smaller in electrically stimulated moment directions when compared to voluntary preferred directions, and intra-subject variability decreased with increased activation levels. Our findings show that the neural control of neck muscles is not based solely on optimizing individual muscle biomechanics but, as activation increases, biomechanical constraints in part dictate the activation of synergistic neck muscles.