AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 1, 2020


Mind Over Muscles: How the Brain Hinders Individual Muscle Control

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The key to balance is, in part, the ability to overpower your mind. Your brain possesses what some researchers call “common drive.” It wants to activate and relax all muscles in synchrony, including the opposing ones. It is probably why you find yourself swaying while trying to balance on one leg. When you start to teeter, your mind drives all the muscles to stiffen at the same time. The problem: This drive contains muscle oscillations, which cause you to sway again and continue the process. All muscles typically have slight oscillations at the same time — less than three per second or three Hz — when they are used. This is the common motor drive. This common drive may also be a reason why stroke survivors have trouble keeping their hands from becoming rigid and shaking. Only when you control both sets of muscles individually, or overcome this common drive, the rigidity and wobbling may stop.

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