Frequency of firing and regularity of discharge of human motor units, and short term synchrony between pairs of motor units, have been assessed in extensor digitorum communis (EDC) and tibialis anterior (TA) muscles in control subjects and in clinically complete paraplegic subjects. The discharge pattern of TA motor units in paraplegia ranged from extremely regular to very irregular for different motor units whereas in the control population, and in EDC of both groups, there was a narrow, but intermediate, range of regularity. There was little difference in the incidence and degree of short term synchrony (STS) in EDC between paraplegic and normal subjects. In contrast, virtually no STS of motor units was observed in the TA muscles of the paraplegic group whereas control subjects exhibited approximately the same amount of STS in their TA and EDC muscles. It is concluded that the extra burden placed on arm muscles in paraplegia does not change the amount of synchronisation between motor units. Furthermore, section of the spinal cord does not increase STS as predicted from lesions of the reticulospinal tract in cats. This may reflect the coincidental removal of supraspinal synchronising inputs of motoneurons or the reorganisation of synaptic inputs in chronic paraplegia.
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