Motor unit


Motor unit (Wikipedia)

In biology, a motor unit is made up of a motor neuron and all of the skeletal muscle fibers innervated by the neuron's axon terminals, including the neuromuscular junctions between the neuron and the fibres. Groups of motor units often work together as a motor pool to coordinate the contractions of a single muscle. The concept was proposed by Charles Scott Sherrington.

All muscle fibers in a motor unit are of the same fiber type[citation needed]. When a motor unit is activated, all of its fibers contract. In vertebrates, the force of a muscle contraction is controlled by the number of activated motor units.

The number of muscle fibers within each unit can vary within a particular muscle and even more from muscle to muscle: the muscles that act on the largest body masses have motor units that contain more muscle fibers, whereas smaller muscles contain fewer muscle fibers in each motor unit. For instance, thigh muscles can have a thousand fibers in each unit, while extraocular muscles might have ten. Muscles which possess more motor units (and thus have greater individual motor neuron innervation) are able to control force output more finely.

Motor units are organized slightly differently in invertebrates: each muscle has few motor units (typically less than 10), and each muscle fiber is innervated by multiple neurons, including excitatory and inhibitory neurons. Thus, while in vertebrates the force of contraction of muscles is regulated by how many motor units are activated, in invertebrates it is controlled by regulating the balance between excitatory and inhibitory signals.


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