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Proactive selective inhibition targeted at the neck muscles: this proximal constraint facilitates learning and regulates global control

Loram, I and Bate, B and Harding, P and Cunningham, R and Loram, A (2017) Proactive selective inhibition targeted at the neck muscles: this proximal constraint facilitates learning and regulates global control. IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering. ISSN 1534-4320

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Abstract

While individual muscle function is known, the sensory and motor value of muscles within the whole-body sensorimotor network is complicated. Specifically, the relationship between neck muscle action and distal muscle synergies is unknown. This work demonstrates a causal relationship between regulation of the neck muscles and global motor control. Studying violinists performing unskilled and skilled manual tasks, we provided ultrasound feedback of the neck muscles with instruction to minimize neck muscle change during task performance and observed the indirect effect on whole-body movement. Analysis of ultrasound, kinematic, electromyographic and electrodermal recordings showed that proactive inhibition targeted at neck muscles had an indirect global effect reducing the cost of movement, reducing complex involuntary, task-irrelevant movement patterns and improving balance. This effect was distinct from the effect of gaze alignment which increased physiological cost and reduced laboratory-referenced movement. Neck muscle inhibition imposes a proximal constraint on the global motor plan, forcing a change in highly automated sensorimotor control. The proximal location ensures global influence. The criterion, inhibition of unnecessary action, ensures reduced cost while facilitating task-relevant variation. This mechanism regulates global motor function and facilitates reinforcement learning to change engrained, maladapted sensorimotor control associated with chronic pain, injury and performance limitation.

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