The intact nervous system has an exquisite ability to modulate the activity of multiple muscles acting at one or more joints to produce an enormous range of actions. Seemingly simple tasks, such as reaching for an object or walking, in fact rely on very complex spatial and temporal patterns of muscle activations. Neurological disorders such as stroke and focal dystonia affect the ability to coordinate multi-joint movements. This article reviews the state of the art of research of muscle synergies in the intact and damaged nervous system, their implications for recovery and rehabilitation, and proposes avenues for research aimed at restoring the nervous system’s ability to control movement.
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