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The human flexor digitorum profundus (FDP) sends tendons to all 4 fingers. One might assume that this multitendoned muscle consists of 4 discrete neuromuscular compartments each acting on a different finger, but recent anatomical and physiological studies raise the possibility that the human FDP is incompletely subdivided. To investigate the functional organization of the human FDP, we recorded electromyographic (EMG) activity by bipolar fine-wire electrodes simultaneously from 2 or 4 separate intramuscular sites as normal human subjects performed isometric, individuated flexion, and extension of each left-hand digit. Some recordings showed EMG activity during flexion of only one of the 4 fingers, indicating that the human FDP has highly selective core regions that act on single fingers. The majority of recordings, however, showed a large amount of EMG activity during flexion of one finger and lower levels of EMG activity during flexion of an adjacent finger. This lesser EMG activity during flexion of adjacent fingers was unlikely to have resulted from recording motor units in neighboring neuromuscular compartments, and instead suggests incomplete functional subdivision of the human FDP. In addition to the greatest agonist EMG activity during flexion of a given finger, most recordings also showed EMG activity during extension of adjacent fingers, apparently serving to stabilize the given finger against unwanted extension. Paradoxically, the functional organization of the human FDP-with both incomplete functional subdivision and highly selective core regions-may contribute simultaneously to the inability of humans to produce completely independent finger movements, and to the greater ability of humans (compared with macaques) to individuate finger movements




Reilly, K. T. (2003). Incomplete Functional Subdivision of the Human Multitendoned Finger Muscle Flexor Digitorum Profundus: An Electromyographic Study. Journal of Neurophysiology, 90(4), 2560–2570. https://doi.org/10.1152/jn.00287.2003

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