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Fluctuations during isometric force production tasks occur due to the inability of musculature to generate purely constant submaximal forces and are considered to be an estimation of neuromuscular noise. The human sensori-motor system regulates complex interactions between multiple afferent and efferent systems, which results in variability during functional task performance. Since muscles are the only active component of the motor system, it therefore seems reasonable that neuromuscular noise plays a key role in governing variability during both standing and walking. Seventy elderly women (including 34 fallers) performed multiple repetitions of isometric force production, quiet standing and walking tasks. No relationship between neuromuscular noise and functional task performance was observed in either the faller or the nonfaller cohorts. When classified into groups with either nominal (group NOM, 25th –75th percentile) or extreme (either too high or too low, group EXT) levels of neuromuscular noise, group NOM demonstrated a clear association (r2.0.23, p,0.05) between neuromuscular noise and variability during task performance. On the other hand, group EXT demonstrated no such relationship, but also tended to walk slower, and had lower stride lengths, as well as lower isometric strength. These results suggest that neuromuscular noise is related to the quality of both static and dynamic functional task performance, but also that extreme levels of neuromuscular noise constitute a key neuromuscular deficit in the elderly.


This article was originally published in PLoS ONE, volume 7, issue 11, in 2012. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048449

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