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Increased prefrontal activity and reduced motor cortex activity during imagined eccentric compared to concentric muscle actions
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Population Studies (CPS). Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Umeå Centre for Functional Brain Imaging (UFBI).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4458-6475
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation, Physiotherapy.
Department of Health Sciences, Mid-Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
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2012 (English)In: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, ISSN 1662-5161, Vol. 6, no 255Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this study we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine differences in recruited brain regions during the concentric and the eccentric phase of an imagined maximum resistance training task of the elbow flexors in healthy young subjects. The results showed that during the eccentric phase, pre-frontal cortex (BA44) bilaterally was recruited when contrasted to the concentric phase. During the concentric phase, however, the motor and pre-motor cortex (BA 4/6) was recruited when contrasted to the eccentric phase. Interestingly, the brain activity of this region was reduced, when compared to the mean activity of the session, during the eccentric phase. Thus, the neural mechanisms governing imagined concentric and eccentric contractions appear to differ. We propose that the recruitment of the pre-frontal cortex is due to an increased demand of regulating force during the eccentric phase. Moreover, it is possible that the inability to fully activate a muscle during eccentric contractions may partly be explained by a reduction of activity in the motor and pre-motor cortex.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 6, no 255
Keyword [en]
motor imagery, fMRI, eccentric, concentric, force modulation
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-57988DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00255OAI: diva2:546125

Originally included in M. Hedlunds thesis in manuscript form.

Available from: 2012-10-02 Created: 2012-08-22 Last updated: 2015-10-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Biomechanical and neural aspects of eccentric and concentric muscle performance in stroke subjects: Implications for resistance training
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Biomechanical and neural aspects of eccentric and concentric muscle performance in stroke subjects: Implications for resistance training
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Muscle weakness is one of the major causes of post-stroke disability. Stroke rehabilitation programs now often incorporate the same type of resistance training that is used for healthy subjects; however, the training effects induced from these training strategies are often limited for stroke patients. An important resistance training principle is that an optimal level of stress is exerted on the neuromuscular system, both during concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lengthening) contractions. One potential problem for post-stroke patients might be difficulties achieving sufficient levels of stress on the neuromuscular system. This problem may be associated with altered muscular function after stroke. In healthy subjects, maximum strength during eccentric contractions is higher than during concentric contractions. In individuals with stroke, this difference in strength is often increased. Moreover, it has also been shown that individuals with stroke exhibit alteration with respect to how the strength varies throughout the range of motion. For example, healthy subjects exhibit a joint specific torque-angle relationship that normally is the same irrespective of contraction mode and contraction velocity. In contrast, individuals with stroke exhibit an overall change of the torque-angle relationship. This change, as described in the literature, consists of a more pronounced strength loss at short muscle length. In individuals with stroke, torque-angle relationships are only partially investigated and so far these relationships have not been analysed using testing protocols that include eccentric, isometric, and concentric modes of contraction.


This thesis investigates the torque-angle relationship of elbow flexors in subjects with stroke during all three modes of contractions – isometric, concentric, and eccentric ­– and the relative loading throughout the range of movement during a resistance exercise. In addition, this thesis studies possible central nervous system mechanisms involved in the control of muscle activation during eccentric and concentric contractions.


The torque-angle relationship during maximum voluntary elbow flexion was examined in stroke subjects (n=11), age-matched healthy subjects (n=11), and young subjects (n=11) during different contraction modes and velocities. In stroke subjects, maximum torque as well as the torque angle relationship was better preserved during eccentric contractions compared to concentric contractions. Furthermore, the relative loading during a resistance exercise at an intensity of 10RM (repetition maximum) was examined. Relative loading throughout the concentric phase of the resistance exercise, expressed as percentage of concentric torque, was found to be similar in all groups. However, relative loading during the eccentric contraction phase, expressed as the percentage of eccentric isokinetic torque, was significantly lower for the stroke group. In addition, when related to isometric maximum voluntary contraction, the loading for the stroke group was significantly lower than for the control groups during both the concentric and eccentric contraction phases.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to examine differences between recruited brain regions during the concentric and the eccentric phase of imagined maximum resistance exercise of the elbow flexors (motor imagery) in young healthy subjects (n=18) and in a selected sample of individuals with stroke (n=4). The motor and premotor cortex was less activated during imagined maximum eccentric contractions compared to imagined maximum concentric contraction of elbow flexors. Moreover, BA44 in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, a brain area that has been shown to be involved in inhibitory control of motor activity, was additionally recruited during eccentric compared to concentric conditions. This pattern was evident only on the contralesional (the intact hemisphere) in some of the stroke subjects. On the ipsilesional hemisphere, the recruitment in ventrolateral prefrontal cortex was similar for both modes of contractions. 


Compared to healthy subjects, the stroke subjects exhibited altered muscular function comprising a specific reduction of torque producing capacity and deviant torque-angle relationship during concentric contractions. Therefore, the relative training load during the resistance exercise at a training intensity of 10RM was lower for subjects with stroke. Furthermore, neuroimaging data indicates that the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex may be involved in a mechanism that modulates cortical motor drive differently depending on mode of the contractions. This might partly be responsible for why it is impossible to fully activate a muscle during eccentric contractions. Moreover, among individuals with stroke, a disturbance of this system could also lie behind the lack of contraction mode-specific modulation of muscle activation that has been found in this population. The altered neuromuscular function evident after a stroke means that stroke victims may find it difficult to supply a sufficient level of stress during traditional resistance exercises to promote adaptation by the neuromuscular system. This insufficiency may partially explain why the increase in strength, in response to conventional resistance training, often has been found to be low among subjects with stroke.

Abstract [sv]

Muskelsvaghet är en av orsakerna till funktionshinder efter stroke. I rehabiliteringsprogram för personer som drabbats av stroke förekommer det numera att styrketräning används i syfte att öka muskelstyrkan. Effekten av styrketräning har dock ofta visat sig vara begränsad. En viktig styrketräningsprincip är att muskulaturen belastas tillräckligt nära maximal styrka under både koncentriska kontraktioner (när man lyfter en vikt) och excentriska kontraktioner (när man kontrollerat sänker en vikt). Ett potentiellt problem skulle kunna vara att personer med stroke inte belastas optimalt under träning på grund av förändrad muskelfunktion. Efter stroke är muskelfunktionen ofta förändrad såtillvida att styrkenedsättningen är mer uttalad under koncentriska kontraktioner. Därutöver har man funnit att styrkenedsättningen är mest uttalad när muskeln är i sitt mest förkortade läge. Detta fenomen har dock inte studerats för alla tre kontraktionstyper, det vill säga excentriska, koncentriska och isometriska kontraktioner, hos personer med stroke.


Denna avhandling undersöker sambandet mellan styrka och ledvinkel över armbågsleden hos personer med stroke under alla tre kontraktionstyper – excentrisk, koncentrisk och isometrisk, samt relativ belastning genom rörelsebanan under en styrketräningsövning. Därutöver undersöker denna avhandling också hjärnans aktiveringsmönster under excentriska och koncentriska kontraktioner.


Sambandet mellan styrka och ledvinkel undersöktes hos personer med stroke (n = 11), åldersmatchade (n = 11) och unga försökspersoner (n = 11). Jämfört med kontrollgrupperna var maximal styrka för personer med stroke mest nedsatt, samt även den oproportionerligt stora styrkenedsättningen vid kort muskelängd som mest uttalad, under koncentriska kontraktioner. Denna avvikelse var minst uttalad vid excentriska kontraktioner. Vidare studerades hur hög belastningen på muskulaturen var i jämförelse med muskelns maximala styrka under en styrketräningsliknande övning för armbågsflexorer vid en träningsintensitet på 10RM. Den uppmätta belastningen under den koncentriska fasen av styrketräningsövningen, uttryckt som procent av den genomsnittliga koncentriska styrkan, var densamma för alla grupperna. Under den excentriska fasen av övningen var dock belastningen, uttryckt som procent av den maximala excentriska styrkan, signifikant lägre för personer med stroke. Träningsbelastningen utgjorde också en lägre andel av den maximala isometriska styrkan för personer med stroke, både under den koncentriska och under den excentriska fasen.


Funktionell magnetresonanstomografi (fMRI) användes för att undersöka hjärnans aktiveringsmönster hos unga försökspersoner (n = 18) och hos individer med stroke (n = 4) när de föreställde sig att de utförde maximal styrketräning för armbågsflexorer (motor imagery). Resultatet visade att primära motorbarken och premotoriska barken var mindre aktiverade när unga friska försökspersonerna föreställde sig utföra maximala excentriska, jämfört med maximala koncentriska kontraktioner. Dessutom var en region i ventrolaterala prefrontala barken, som i tidigare studier visat sig vara inblandat i reglering och hämning av muskelaktivering, mer aktiverade under föreställda excentriska kontraktioner. Detta aktiveringsmönster i den prefrontala barken återfanns dock endast i den icke skadade hjärnhalvan hos personer med stroke.


Jämfört med kontrollgrupperna uppvisade försökspersonerna med stroke en förändrad muskelfunktion som bestod av en specifik nedsättning av styrkan under koncentriska kontraktioner samt också ett mer avvikande samband mellan styrka och ledvinkel under koncentriska kontraktioner. Den relativa belastningen under utförandet av en styrketräningsövning med en intensitet på 10RM var på grund av dessa avvikelser lägre för försökspersoner med stroke. Hjärnavbildnings-studierna indikerade att ventrolaterala prefrontala barken verkar vara involverat i ett kortikalt moduleringssystem som reglerar muskel-aktivering olika beroende på kontraktionstyp under maximala kontraktioner. Detta skulle kunna vara en underliggande mekanism bakom den hittills obesvarade frågan varför det är omöjligt att aktivera muskulaturen maximalt under excentriska kontraktioner. En störning av detta moduleringssystem hos personer med stroke verkar också kunna ligga bakom den förändrade regleringen av muskelaktivering som visat sig förekomma hos personer med stroke. Neuromuskulär funktion efter stroke är förändrad i flera avseenden vilket verkar medföra att muskulaturen inte belastas optimalt under konventionell styrketräning. Detta kan vara en delförklaring till varför styrkeökningen som svar på träning ofta är liten hos personer med stroke.  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2012. 76 p.
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1510
fMRI, Isokinetic, Motor imagery, Muscular strength, Resistance training, Neurological rehabilitation
National Category
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-55466 (URN)978-91-7459-446-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2012-06-08, NUS, Vårdvetarhuset, Aulan, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2012-05-16 Created: 2012-05-15 Last updated: 2015-10-08Bibliographically approved

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Olsson, Carl-JohanHedlund, MattiasLundström, RonnieLindström, Britta
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Centre for Population Studies (CPS)Umeå Centre for Functional Brain Imaging (UFBI)PhysiotherapyOccupational and Environmental Medicine
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Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

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