Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 234, Issue 4, pp 1119–1132 | Cite as

Trunk muscles contribute as functional groups to directionality of reaching during stance

  • Alexander Stamenkovic
  • Paul J. Stapley
Research Article


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.


Reaching Standing Trunk muscle Postural adjustments 



Surface electromyography


Anticipatory postural adjustments


Centre of mass


Centre of pressure


Central nervous system


Right anterior deltoid muscle


Right posterior deltoid muscle


Right latissimus dorsi muscle


Left latissimus dorsi muscle


Right gluteus maximus muscle


Left gluteus maximus muscle


Ground reaction forces


Right lumbar erector spinae muscle


Left lumbar erector spinae muscle


Right lumbar multifidus muscle


Left lumbar multifidus muscle


Right external oblique muscle


Left external oblique muscle


Right rectus abdominis muscle


Left rectus abdominis muscle


Right (combined) internal oblique/transversus abdominis muscle


Left (combined) internal oblique/transversus abdominis muscle


Preparatory postural adjustments



The authors would like to thank Mrs. Sophie Bos, Mr. Joel Walsh, and Mr. Sergio Jimenez for their technical assistance during data collection and Ms. Jessica Fay for the anatomical illustrations.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors state that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neural Control of Movement Laboratory, Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI), Gerard Sutton Building, School of Medicine, Faculty of Science, Medicine and HealthUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia

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