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Motor units

As you have learned, every skeletal muscle fiber must be innervated by the axon terminal of a motor neuron in order to contract. Each muscle fiber is innervated by only one motor neuron. The actual group of muscle fibers in a muscle innervated by a single motor neuron is called a motor unit    . The size of a motor unit is variable depending on the nature of the muscle.

A small motor unit is an arrangement where a single motor neuron supplies a small number of muscle fibers in a muscle. Small motor units permit very fine motor control of the muscle. The best example in humans is the small motor units of the extraocular eye muscles that move the eyeballs. There are thousands of muscle fibers in each muscle, but every six or so fibers are supplied by a single motor neuron, as the axons branch to form synaptic connections at their individual NMJs. This allows for exquisite control of eye movements so that both eyes can quickly focus on the same object. Small motor units are also involved in the many fine movements of the fingers and thumb of the hand for grasping, texting, etc.

A large motor unit is an arrangement where a single motor neuron supplies a large number of muscle fibers in a muscle. Large motor units are concerned with simple, or “gross,” movements, such as powerfully extending the knee joint. The best example is the large motor units of the thigh muscles or back muscles, where a single motor neuron will supply thousands of muscle fibers in a muscle, as its axon splits into thousands of branches.

There is a wide range of motor units within many skeletal muscles, which gives the nervous system a wide range of control over the muscle. The small motor units in the muscle will have smaller, lower-threshold motor neurons that are more excitable, firing first to their skeletal muscle fibers, which also tend to be the smallest. Activation of these smaller motor units, results in a relatively small degree of contractile strength (tension) generated in the muscle. As more strength is needed, larger motor units, with bigger, higher-threshold motor neurons are enlisted to activate larger muscle fibers. This increasing activation of motor units produces an increase in muscle contraction known as recruitment    . As more motor units are recruited, the muscle contraction grows progressively stronger. In some muscles, the largest motor units may generate a contractile force of 50 times more than the smallest motor units in the muscle. This allows a feather to be picked up using the biceps brachii arm muscle with minimal force, and a heavy weight to be lifted by the same muscle by recruiting the largest motor units.

When necessary, the maximal number of motor units in a muscle can be recruited simultaneously, producing the maximum force of contraction for that muscle, but this cannot last for very long because of the energy requirements to sustain the contraction. To prevent complete muscle fatigue, motor units are generally not all simultaneously active, but instead some motor units rest while others are active, which allows for longer muscle contractions. The nervous system uses recruitment as a mechanism to efficiently utilize a skeletal muscle.

Questions & Answers

Describe the system s that maintain the internal environment of a human body
Nora Reply
an organism is a living being that had a cellular structure and that can independently perform all physiological functions needed for life.
Nwecho Reply
a tissue is a group of similar cells that work together to perform a particular function
Nwecho
chemical level, cellular level, tissue level, organs level, organ systems, organisms
Nwecho Reply
they're reproduction but also produces hormones dus they're endocrine system
Nwecho
cells are smallest independent functional unit of a living organism
Nwecho
an organ is an anatomically distinct structure of the body composed of two or more tissue
Nwecho
an organ system is a group of organs that work together to perform a major function.
Nwecho
Structural Organization of the human body.
Tammy
What is a cavity
Isaac Reply
Permanently damaged areas in teeth that develop into tiny holes
MASLAH
what is meant by epithelial tissue
Zahid
What is the difference between regional anatomy and systematic anatomy?
Andrew Reply
Regional anatomy is the study of the interrelationships of all of the structures in a specific body region, such as the abdomen. ... In contrast, systemic anatomy is the study of the structures that make up a discrete body system—that is, a group of structures that work together to perform a unique
Tammy
Pls is that all
Petra
regional anatomy studies structures that contribute to specific body region example the thoracic region while systematic anatomy studies structures that contribute to specific body systems example respiratory system
Nwecho
so meaning of dissect
Mary Reply
it is the dismembering or the cutting of living organism to study the anatomical structure of it body
Kwasi
what are lymph nodes
Memory Reply
what is the best book that shows unit 1 about cell unit 2 about tissue unit 3 about embroyology
Abraham Reply
2
Hellen
to understand structure of body able to understand function of system. to understand how to build human body and function
Dereje Reply
hi
Neela
to determine body structures
Petra Reply
to know the use of each and every part of our body
Petra
to understand how our body structures work to support our lives
Petra
Is this a question?
Tammy
So what was the question?
Thamie
All the body work together to make the whole organism life possible
Kwasi
what is the importance of conversation
Hellen
To be able to identify the parts of the body and their functions
Hodasi
ok
Hodasi
Ideas are shared during conversation also informations are given
Hodasi
it reduces cost
Kwasi
what is carbon dioxide respiratory system why?
Prachi Reply
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is involved with the chemical process of cellular respiration. It is produced as a cellular waste product during the decomposition reactions and serves an important role in maintaining the appropriate acid-base balance in the body.
Tammy
thank you
Prachi
You're welcome!
Tammy
i have not under stood human heart
Simbwa Reply
means?
Dilshan
why a man became wild at the time of sexual intercourse. reason?
Soul
what is anatomy
philemon Reply
what is anatomy in terms of medicine
philemon
it is the study of human and animal form by observing and examined them and sometimes dissecting them and view the tiny thing by the use of microscope
Kwasi
anatomy is simply the scientific study of the body's structures
Petra
study of human body and animal
Crystal
why a man becomes wild at the time of sexual intercourse
Soul
Anatomy is the study of structure of the human body.
Tammy
Physiology is the study of the functions of the human body
Tammy
what is the difference between regional anatomy and systematic anatomy?
Andrew
study of body And animal structure.
Sohail
Describe early studies into the working of human body.
Tonny Reply
please guys help me to answer this question; Define the two divisions of the skeleton ?
Jonathan Reply
two example of appendicular skeleton
Jonathan
upper limb ;eg humerus n lower limb;eg tibia
BRIAN

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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