The motor nerve of the bi-articular rectus femoris muscle is generally split from the femoral nerve trunk into two sub-branches just before it reaches the distal and proximal regions of the muscle. In this study, we examined whether the regional difference in muscle activities exists within the human rectus femoris muscle during maximal voluntary isometric contractions of knee extension and hip flexion. Surface electromyographic signals were recorded from the distal, middle, and proximal regions. In addition, twitch responses were evoked by stimulating the femoral nerve with supramaximal intensity. The root mean square value of electromyographic amplitude during each voluntary task was normalized to the maximal compound muscle action potential amplitude (M-wave) for each region. The electromyographic amplitudes were significantly smaller during hip flexion than during knee extension task for all regions. There was no significant difference in the normalized electromyographic amplitude during knee extension among regions within the rectus femoris muscle, whereas those were significantly smaller in the distal than in the middle and proximal regions during hip flexion task. These results indicate that the bi-articular rectus femoris muscle is differentially controlled along the longitudinal direction and that in particular the distal region of the muscle cannot be fully activated during hip flexion.
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