Force depression following muscle shortening of voluntarily activated and electrically stimulated human adductor pollicis

Hae Dong Lee, Walter Herzog

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22 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this study was to investigate steady-state force depression following active muscle shortening in human adductor pollicis during voluntary and electrically induced contractions. Subjects (n = 12; age 28 ± 5 years; 7 males and 5 females) performed isometric reference contractions and isometric-shortening-isometric contractions, using maximal voluntary effort and near-maximal electrical stimulation. Force depression was assessed by comparing the steady-state isometric forces produced following active muscle shortening with the purely isometric reference forces obtained at the corresponding muscle length. In order to test for effects of the shortening conditions on the steady-state force depression, the amplitude and speed of shortening were changed systematically in a random order but balanced design. Thumb adduction force and carpometacarpal joint angle were continuously measured using a custom-designed dynamometer. During voluntary contractions, muscle activation was recorded using electromyography and the superimposed twitch technique. During electrically induced contractions, muscle stiffness was assessed using a quick-stretch method. Force depression during voluntary contractions, with a constant level of muscle activation, was similar to that obtained during electrically induced contractions. Force depression increased with increasing amplitudes of shortening (9.9 ± 1.6%, 15.6 ± 2.4% and 22.4 ± 2.4% for 10, 20 and 30 deg of shortening, respectively) and decreased with increasing speeds of shortening (27.1 ± 2.5%, 19.3 ± 1.6% and 15.6 ± 1.8% for 20, 60 and 300 deg s-1 of shortening, respectively), regardless of the activation method. Muscle stiffness was significantly lower in the force-depressed state (5.9 ± 0.2 N deg-1) compared with that of the isometric reference contractions (7.2 ± 0.3 N deg-1), and decreased with increasing force depression (6.6 ± 0.5, 6.0 ± 0.5 and 5.3 ± 0.4 N deg-1 for the 10, 20 and 30 deg of shortening test contractions, respectively . Force depression appeared to be fully established at the end of the shortening phase. The results of this study suggest that steady-state force depression for voluntary movements is similar to that observed using electrical stimulation. Furthermore, it appears that force depression is established at the end of the shortening phase and is associated with a reduction in muscle stiffness and thus, presumably, a decrease in the proportion of attached cross-bridges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)993-1003
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2003 Sept 15

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology


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