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It has been shown that when humans lean in various directions, the central nervous system (CNS) recruits different motoneuron pools for task completion; common units that are active during different leaning directions, and unique units that are active in only one leaning direction. We used high-density surface electromyography (HD-sEMG) to examine if motor unit (MU) firing behaviour was dependent on leaning direction, muscle (medial and lateral gastrocnemius; soleus), limits of stability, or whether a MU is considered common or unique. Fourteen healthy participants stood on a force platform and maintained their center of pressure in five different leaning directions. HD-sEMG recordings were decomposed into MU action potentials and the average firing rate (AFR), coefficient of variation (CoVISI) and firing intermittency were calculated on the MU spike trains. During the 30-90º leaning directions both unique units and common units had higher firing rates (F = 31.31, p < 0.0001). However, the unique units achieved higher firing rates compared to the common units (mean estimate difference = 3.48 Hz, p < 0.0001). The CoVISI increased across directions for the unique units but not for the common units (F = 23.65. p < 0.0001). Finally, intermittent activation of MUs was dependent on the leaning direction (F = 11.15, p < 0.0001), with less intermittent activity occurring during diagonal and forward-leaning directions. These results provide evidence that the CNS can preferentially control separate motoneuron pools within the ankle plantarflexors during voluntary leaning tasks for the maintenance of standing balance.

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Cohen, J., Vieira, T., Ivanova, T., Garland, S. (2022). Differential behaviour of distinct motoneuron pools that innervate the triceps surae. Journal of Neurophysiology,

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