Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 106, Issue 1, pp 169–176 | Cite as

Reprogramming of muscle activation patterns at the wrist in compensation for elbow reaction torques during planar two-joint arm movements

  • J. D. Cooke
  • N. Virji-Babul
Research Article


The relationship between wrist kinematics, dynamics and the pattern of muscle activation were examined during a two-joint planar movement in which the two joints moved in opposite directions, i.e. elbow flexion/wrist extension and elbow extension/wrist flexion. Elbow movements (ranging from 10 to 70 deg) and wrist movements (ranging from 10 to 50 deg) were performed during a visual, step-tracking task in which subjects were required to attend to the initial and final angles at each joint. As the elbow amplitude increased, wrist movement duration increased and the wrist movement trajectories became quite variable. Analysis of the torques acting at the wrist joint showed that elbow movements produced reaction torques acting in the same direction as the intended wrist movement. Distinct patterns of muscle activation were observed at the wrist joint that were dependent on the relative magnitude of the elbow reaction torque in relation to the net wrist torque. When the magnitude of the elbow reaction torque was quite small, the wrist agonist was activated first. As the magnitude of the elbow reaction torque increased, activity in the wrist agonist decreased significantly. In conditions where the elbow reaction torque was much larger than the net wrist torque, the wrist muscle torque reversed direction to oppose the intended movement. This reversal of wrist muscle torque was directly associated with a change in the pattern of muscle activation where the wrist antagonist was activated prior to the wrist agonist. Our findings indicate that motion of the elbow joint is an important consideration in planning wrist movement. Specifically, the selection of muscle activation patterns at the wrist is dependent on the relative magnitude and direction of the elbow reaction torque in relation to the direction of wrist motion.

Key words

Multi-joint movement Dynamics Kinematics EMG Human 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. D. Cooke
    • 1
  • N. Virji-Babul
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Applied Health ScienceUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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