Effects of persistent inward currents, accommodation, and adaptation on motor unit behavior: A simulation study

Ann L. Revill, Andrew J. Fuglevand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Motor neurons are often assumed to generate spikes in proportion to the excitatory synaptic input received. There are, however, many intrinsic properties of motor neurons that might affect this relationship, such as persistent inward currents (PICs), spike-threshold accommodation, or spike-frequency adaptation. These nonlinear properties have been investigated in reduced animal preparation but have not been well studied during natural motor behaviors because of the difficulty in characterizing synaptic input in intact animals. Therefore, we studied the influence of each of these intrinsic properties on spiking responses and muscle force using a population model of motor units that simulates voluntary contractions in human subjects. In particular, we focused on the difference in firing rate of low-threshold motor units when higher threshold motor units were recruited and subsequently derecruited, referred to as ΔF. Others have used ΔF to evaluate the extent of PIC activation during voluntary behavior. Our results showed that positive ΔF values could arise when any one of these nonlinear properties was included in the simulations. Therefore, a positive ΔF should not be considered as exclusive evidence for PIC activation. Furthermore, by systematically varying contraction duration and speed in our simulations, we identified a means that might be used experimentally to distinguish among PICs, accommodation, and adaptation as contributors to ΔF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1467-1479
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Computer model
  • Motor neuron
  • Muscle
  • Recruitment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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