Regional modulation of the ankle plantarflexor muscles associated with standing external perturbations across different directions
Maintenance of upright standing posture has often been explained using the inverted pendulum model. This model considers the ankle plantarflexors to act as a single synergistic group. There are differences in muscle properties among the medial and lateral gastrocnemius (MG and LG, respectively) and the soleus that may affect their activation. Twelve volunteers participated in an investigation to determine whether the activation of the ankle plantarflexor muscles was modulated according to perturbation direction during unilateral standing perturbations of 1% body mass. High-density surface electromyography (HDS-EMG) was used to determine the amplitude and barycenter of the muscle activation and kinematic analysis was used to evaluate ankle, knee, and hip joint movement. The HDS-EMG amplitude and barycenter of MG and LG were modulated with the perturbation direction (MG p < 0.05; LG p < 0.01; one-way repeated-measures ANOVA). In soleus, the HDS-EMG barycenter modulated across the perturbation direction (p < 0.01 for X&Y coordinates), but the HDS-EMG amplitude did not change. A repeated-measures correlation was used to interpret the HDS-EMG pattern in the context of the kinematics. The relative contribution of MG activation compared to the total gastrocnemii activation was significantly associated with ankle dorsi/plantarflexion (rrm = 0.620), knee flexion/extension and abduction/adduction (rrm = 0.622 and rrm = 0.547, respectively), and hip flexion/extension and abduction/adduction (rrm = 0.653 and rrm = 0.432, respectively). The findings suggest that the central nervous system activates motor units within different regions of MG, LG and SOL in response to standing perturbations in different directions.