Postmovement Changes in the Frequency and Amplitude of Physiological Tremor Despite Unchanged Neural Output

Raymond Reynolds, Martin Lakie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)


Reynolds R, Lakie M. Postmovement changes in the frequency and amplitude of physiological tremor despite unchanged neural output. J Neurophysiol 104: 2020-2023, 2010. First published July 21, 2010; doi:10.1152/jn.00513.2010. Active or passive movement causes a temporary reduction in muscle stiffness that gradually returns to baseline levels when the muscle remains still. This effect, termed muscle thixotropy, alters the mechanical properties of the joint around which the muscle acts, reducing its resonant frequency. Because physiological tremor is affected by joint mechanics, this suggests that prior movement may alter tremor independently of neural output. To address this possibility, vertical acceleration of the outstretched prone hand was recorded in eight healthy subjects, along with EMG activity of the extensor digitorum communis muscle. A series of voluntary wrist flexion/extension movements was performed every 20 s, interspersed by periods during which hand position was maintained. Time-dependent changes in the amplitude and frequency of acceleration and EMG were analyzed using a continuous wavelet transform. Immediately following movement, acceleration displayed a significant increase in wavelet power accompanied by a reduction in peak frequency. During the postmovement period, power declined by 63%, and frequency increased from 7.2 to 8.0 Hz. These changes occurred with an exponential time constant of 2-4 s, consistent with a thixotropic mechanism. In contrast to acceleration, EMG activity showed no significant changes despite being strongly related to acceleration during the movement itself. These results show that prior movement transiently increases the amplitude and reduces the frequency of physiological tremor, despite unchanging neural output. This effect is best explained by a reduction in joint stiffness caused by muscle thixotropy, highlighting the importance of mechanical factors in the genesis of physiological tremor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2020-2023
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010


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