Spatial distribution of muscle fibers within the territory of a motor unit

S. Bodine-Fowler, A. Garfinkel, R. R. Roy, V. R. Edgerton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


The spatial distribution of muscle fibers belonging to a motor unit was studied in the soleus (SOL) and tibialis anterior (TA) of adult cats to provide a detailed description of the spatial patterns which exist within the territory of a motor unit. Glycogen depletion of the motor unit was achieved through repetitive stimulation of either the intracellularly identified motoneuron or the functionally isolated motor axon. Muscle fibers belonging to the stimulated unit were identified in serial cross-sections, and in the cross-section which contained the most depleted fibers the centroid of each depleted fiber was determined. Subsequently, three spatial analyses, ie, a quadrat analysis, a point-to nearest neighbor analysis and an interfiber distance analysis, were used to determine if motor unit fibers were distributed randomly throughout the territory of the unit. Motor unit fibers tended to be localized within the muscle cross-section and were not evenly or homogeneously distributed throughout the territory. In general, the analyses suggested that motor unit fibers may be arranged in clusters or subgroups of varying size. The data demonstrate three different quantitative analyses for studying the organization of muscle fibers of normal motor units, which can be used for objective assessment and diagnosis of neuromuscular diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1133-1145
Number of pages13
JournalMuscle and Nerve
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1990


  • glycogen depletion
  • Monte Carlo simulations
  • soleus
  • spatial statistics
  • tibialis anterior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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