Differential control of abdominal muscles during multi-directional support-surface translations in man

  • Mark G. CarpenterEmail author
  • Craig D. Tokuno
  • Alf Thorstensson
  • Andrew G. Cresswell
Research Article


The current study aimed to understand how deep and superficial abdominal muscles are coordinated with respect to activation onset times and amplitudes in response to unpredictable support-surface translations delivered in multiple directions. Electromyographic (EMG) data were recorded intra-muscularly using fine-wire electrodes inserted into the right rectus abdominis (RA), obliquus externus (OE), obliquus internus (OI) and transversus abdominis (TrA) muscles. Twelve young healthy male subjects were instructed to maintain their standing balance during 40 support surface translations (peak acceleration 1.3 m s−2; total displacement 0.6 m) that were counter-balanced between four different directions (forward, backward, leftward, rightward). Differences between abdominal muscles in EMG onset times were found for specific translation directions. The more superficial RA (backward translations) and OE (forward and leftward translations) muscles had significantly earlier EMG onsets compared to TrA. EMG onset latencies were dependent on translation direction in RA, OE and OI, but independent of direction in TrA. EMG amplitudes in RA and OE were dependent on translation direction within the first 100 ms of activity, whereas responses from the two deeper muscles (TrA and OI) were independent of translation direction during this interval. The current results provide new insights into how abdominal muscles contribute to postural reactions during human stance. Response patterns of deep and superficial abdominal muscles during support surface translations are unlike those previously described during upper-body perturbations or voluntary arm movements, indicating that the neural mechanisms controlling individual abdominal muscles are task-specific to different postural demands.


Balance Intramuscular Electromyography Postural reactions Transversus abdominis 



At the time of data collection Craig Tokuno and Andrew Cresswell were employed at The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences. Mark Carpenter was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the project was supported by The Swedish Research Council. The authors do not have any conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark G. Carpenter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Craig D. Tokuno
    • 2
    • 4
  • Alf Thorstensson
    • 2
    • 3
  • Andrew G. Cresswell
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Human KineticsUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of NeuroscienceKarolinska InstitutetStockholmSweden
  3. 3.The Swedish School of Sport and Health SciencesStockholmSweden
  4. 4.School of Human Movement Studies and Division of PhysiotherapyUniversity of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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