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Passive muscle-tendon unit gearing is joint dependent in human medial gastrocnemius

Hodson-Tole, EF, Wakeling, JM and Dick, TJM (2016) Passive muscle-tendon unit gearing is joint dependent in human medial gastrocnemius. Frontiers in Physiology, 7.

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© 2016 Hodson-Tole, Wakeling and Dick. Skeletal muscles change length and develop force both passively and actively. Gearing allows muscle fiber length changes to be uncoupled from those of the whole muscle-tendon unit. During active contractions this process allows muscles to operate at mechanically favorable conditions for power or economical force production. Here we ask whether gearing is constant in passive muscle; determining the relationship between fascicle and muscle-tendon unit length change in the bi-articular medial gastrocnemius and investigating the influence of whether motion occurs at the knee or ankle joint. Specifically, the same muscle-tendon unit length changes were elicited by rotating either the ankle or knee joint whilst simultaneously measuring fascicle lengths in proximal and distal muscle regions using B-mode ultrasound. In both the proximal and distal muscle region, passive gearing values differed depending on whether ankle or knee motion occurred. Fascicle length changes were greater with ankle motion, likely reflecting anatomical differences in proximal and distal passive tendinous tissues, as well as shape changes of the adjacent mono-articular soleus. This suggests that there is joint-dependent dissociation between the mechanical behavior of muscle fibers and the muscle-tendon unit during passive joint motions that may be important to consider when developing accurate models of bi-articular muscles.

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