Simulation of motor unit recruitment and microvascular unit perfusion: Spatial considerations

Andrew J. Fuglevand, Steven S. Segal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Muscle fiber activity is the principal stimulus for increasing capillary perfusion during exercise. The control elementS of perfusion, i.e., microvascular units (MVUs), supply clusters of muscle fibers. Whereas the control elements of contraction, i.e., motor units, are composed of fibers widely scattered throughout muscle. The purpose of this study was to examine how the discordant spatial domains of MVUs and motor units could influence the proportion of open capillaries (designated as perfusion) throughout a muscle cross section. A computer model simulated the locations of perfused MVUs in response to the activation of up to 100 motor units in a muscle with 40,000 fibers and a cross-sectional area of 100 mm2. The simulation increased contraction intensity by progressive recruitment of motor units. For each step of motor unit recruitment, the percentage of active fibers and the number of perfused MVUs were determined for several conditions: 1) motor unit fibers widely dispersed and motor unit territories randomly located (which approximates healthy human muscle), 2) regionalized motor unit territories, 3) reversed recruitment order of motor units, 4) densely clustered motor unit fibers, and 5) increased size but decreased number of motor units. The simulations indicated that the widespread dispersion of motor unit fibers facilitates comPlete capillary (MVU) perfusion of muscle at low levels of activity. The efficacy by which muscle fiber activity induced perfusion was reduced 7- to 14-fold under conditions that decreased the dispersion of active fibers, increased the size of motor units, or reversed the sequence of motor unit recruitment. Such conditions are similar to those that arise in neuromuscular disorders, with aging, or during electrical stimulation of muscle, respectively.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1223-1234
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1997


  • Aging
  • Blood flow
  • Capillary
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Muscle fiber distribution
  • Perfusion heterogeneity
  • Regionalization
  • Reinnervation
  • Skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Simulation of motor unit recruitment and microvascular unit perfusion: Spatial considerations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this