SUMMARY The in vitro mechanical properties of tendons are well described,whereas little data exist for conditions mimicking those found in vivo . Descriptions of the in situ mechanical properties of aponeuroses are more common, but the results are variable. Our goal was to examine the mechanical properties of these tissues under conditions mimicking the in vivo state. Tissue strains were measured in the rat( Rattus norvegicus ) soleus muscle directly from the spacing of metal markers implanted within the tissues of interest using an X-ray video microscope. Strains were measured for the tendon and three regions (proximal,middle and distal) of the aponeurosis. Muscle stimulation was accomplished through isolated ventral rootlets, allowing force to be graded in seven repeatable increments independent of muscle-tendon unit length. Peak strains(during maximal tetanic contraction at optimum length; P o )were ∼5% in tendon and ∼12% in all regions of the aponeurosis. At forces above 50% of P o , tissue stiffness was nearly constant in all regions, and a pronounced toe region was observed only at forces below ∼25% of P o . Stiffness increased in all regions as the muscle-tendon unit was lengthened. These results suggest that using mechanical properties measured ex vivo or during single contractile events in situ to estimate the in vivo behavior of tendon and aponeurosis may lead to errors in estimating the distribution of strain among the contractile and series elastic elements of the muscle.
SUMMARY Motor function is altered by microgravity, but little detail is available as to what these changes are and how changes in the individual components of the sensorimotor system affect the control of movement. Further, there is little information on whether the changes in motor performance reflect immediate or chronic adaptations to changing gravitational environments. To determine the effects of microgravity on the neural control properties of selected motor pools, four male astronauts from the NASA STS-78 mission performed motor tasks requiring the maintenance of either ankle dorsiflexor or plantarflexor torque. Torques of 10 or 50% of a maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) were requested of the subjects during 10° peak-to-peak sinusoidal movements at 0.5Hz. When 10% MVC of the plantarflexors was requested, the actual torques generated in-flight were similar to pre-flight values. Post-flight torques were higher than pre- and in-flight torques. The actual torques when 50% MVC was requested were higher in- and post-flight than pre-flight. Soleus (Sol) electromyographic (EMG) amplitudes during plantarflexion were higher in-flight than pre- or post-flight for both the 10 and 50% MVC tasks. No differences in medial gastrocnemius (MG) EMG amplitudes were observed for either the 10 or 50% MVC tasks. The EMG amplitudes of the tibialis anterior (TA), an antagonist to plantarflexion, were higher in- and post-flight than pre-flight for the 50% MVC task. During the dorsiflexion tasks, the torques generated in both the 10 and 50% MVC tasks did not differ pre-, in- and post-flight. TA EMG amplitudes were significantly higher in- than pre-flight for both the 10 or 50% MVC tasks, and remained elevated post-flight for the 50% MVC test. Both the Sol and MG EMG amplitudes were significantly higher in-flight than either pre- or post-flight for both the 10 and 50% MVC tests. These data suggest that the most consistent response to space flight was an elevation in the level of contractions of agonists and antagonists when attempting to maintain constant torques at a given level of MVC. Also, the chronic levels of EMG activity in selected ankle flexor and extensor muscles during space flight and during routine activities on Earth were recorded. Compared with pre- and post-flight values, there was a marked increase in the total EMG activity of the TA and the Sol and no change in the MG EMG activity in-flight. These data indicate that space flight, as occurs on shuttle missions, is a model of elevated activation of both flexor and extensor muscles, probably reflecting the effects of programmed work schedules in flight rather than a direct effect of microgravity.
The issue addressed in this paper is to what extent are selected physiological properties and associated protein systems of muscle fibres controlled or regulated by neuronal systems. One extreme position would be that all muscle proteins are controlled completely by the neural system that innervates the muscle. The opposite position would be that none of the muscle proteins are under neural influence. Although the concept that there is complete neural control of all proteins has generally received more support, it is more likely that there is only partial neural control of some proteins. Identical physiological, morphological and metabolic properties of all muscle fibres within a motor unit would suggest a complete neural control of all protein systems in muscle fibres. However, evidence against this idea is provided by the marked heterogeneity in the activities of two enzymes, alpha glycerophosphate dehydrogenase and succinic dehydrogenase (SDH), and in the wide variations in muscle fibre cross-sectional areas among fibres of the same motor unit in the cat soleus and tibialis anterior.