Trunk muscles contribute as functional groups to directionality of reaching during stance
Muscle activity preceding the onset of voluntary movement has been shown to reduce centre of mass (CoM) displacement and stabilise the body during self-induced 'perturbations'. However, based on recent findings in the lower limb, where preparatory muscle activity creates the dynamics necessary for the initiation of movement, this study sought to investigate whether trunk musculature acted consistently to minimise the displacement of the CoM, or in contrast, contribute to the movement. While standing, nine healthy participants made single-step (point-to-point) reaching movements to 13 visual targets throughout a 180° range (target interval = 15°). Full-body kinematics and electromyographic activity from 'focal' arm and 'postural' trunk muscles were analysed for a preparatory phase of 250-ms preceding movement onset (termed pPA). Akin to lower limb findings, direction-specific patterns of anticipatory trunk muscle activity accompanied the onset of rotational kinematics and CoM acceleration in the direction of the desired target. When arranged in terms of peak activation, we found functionally relevant groupings aligned to either ipsi-, central or contra-lateral reaching directions. Contrary to traditional approaches, which focus on CoM stabilisation, this spatial recruitment was in favour of assisting initiation of movement. Such activity suggests that the central nervous system may rely on synergic patterns of muscle activation within an undistinguishable and shared focal/postural motor command for functional voluntary movements.