Author(s): Doherty TJ, Brown WF
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Abstract The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of aging on the contractile and electrophysiological properties of human thenar motor units (MUs). Percutaneous electrical stimulation of single motor axons within the median nerve was used to isolate and examine the twitch tensions, contractile speeds, and surface-detected MU action potential (S-MUAP) sizes of 48 thenar MUs in 17 younger subjects (25-53 yr) and 44 thenar MUs in 9 older subjects (64-77 yr). A wide range of twitch tensions, contractile speeds, and S-MUAP sizes was observed in both age groups. However, older subjects had significantly larger MU twitch tensions and slower MU twitch contraction and half-relaxation times. These changes were accompanied by increased S-MUAP sizes. These findings suggest that the human thenar MU pool undergoes significant age-related increase in MU size and slowing of contractile speed. Such adaptation may help to overcome previously reported age-related losses of thenar MUs.
This article was published in J Appl Physiol (1985)
and referenced in Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research