On the skilled plantar flexor motor action and unique electromyographic activity of ballet dancers

Abstract

The study aimed to compare the ability of dance and non-dance subjects to perform fine control of a simple heel-raising/lowering movement, and to determine if there are any differences in motor unit activity in the primary plantar flexor muscles during the movement. Subjects were instructed to accurately track a sinusoidal trace with a heel-raising and lowering movement at four controlled frequencies (1, 0.5, 0.25, and 0.125 Hz). The ankle joint angle was used to characterize movement errors from the target. Surface electromyography was recorded from the soleus and medial gastrocnemius muscles. One trial including five sinusoidal traces was divided into two phases: an up phase and a down phase. To characterize motor unit activity of the plantar flexor muscles, a wavelet transform was applied to electromyographic signals recorded in each phase. For both phases, errors in movement accuracy were lower in dancers than in controls (8.7 ± 4.6 vs. 11.5 ± 6.8%, P < 0.05) regardless of the frequency of the sinusoidal wave traced. During the down phase, peak power of soleus electromyographic signals at ~ 10 Hz was statistically larger in control subjects than in dancers (10.4 ± 0.7 vs. 6.3 ± 0.4% total power, P < 0.05). These results indicate that dancers have a higher degree of motor skill in a heel raise tracking task and exhibit adaptations in the motor unit activity during skilled dynamic movements.

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Correspondence to Sakiko Saito.

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Saito, S., Obata, H., Kuno-Mizumura, M. et al. On the skilled plantar flexor motor action and unique electromyographic activity of ballet dancers. Exp Brain Res 236, 355–364 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00221-017-5131-0

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Keywords

  • Dance
  • Motor skill
  • Electromyography
  • Spectrum analysis
  • Dynamic task