Research ArticleNEUROSCIENCE

Network structure of the human musculoskeletal system shapes neural interactions on multiple time scales

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Science Advances  27 Jun 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 6, eaat0497
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat0497

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Abstract

Human motor control requires the coordination of muscle activity under the anatomical constraints imposed by the musculoskeletal system. Interactions within the central nervous system are fundamental to motor coordination, but the principles governing functional integration remain poorly understood. We used network analysis to investigate the relationship between anatomical and functional connectivity among 36 muscles. Anatomical networks were defined by the physical connections between muscles, and functional networks were based on intermuscular coherence assessed during postural tasks. We found a modular structure of functional networks that was strongly shaped by the anatomical constraints of the musculoskeletal system. Changes in postural tasks were associated with a frequency-dependent reconfiguration of the coupling between functional modules. These findings reveal distinct patterns of functional interactions between muscles involved in flexibly organizing muscle activity during postural control. Our network approach to the motor system offers a unique window into the neural circuitry driving the musculoskeletal system.

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