by J. IJkema-Paassen and A. Gramsbergen
Medical Physiology, University Medical Centre Groningen, the Netherlands
Control of posture is a prerequisite for efficient motor performance. Posture depends on muscles capable of enduring contractions, whereas movements often require quick, forceful muscle actions. To serve these different goals, muscles contain fibers that meet these different tasks. Muscles with strong postural functions mainly consist of slow muscle fibers with a great resistance against fatigue. Flexor muscles in the leg and arm muscles are mainly composed of fast muscle fibers producing relatively large forces that are rapidly fatigable. Development of the neuromuscular system continues after birth. We discuss in the human baby and in animal experiments changes in muscle fiber properties, regression from polyneural into mononeural innervation, and developmental changes in the motoneurons of postural muscles during that period. The regression of poly-neural innervation in postural muscles and the development of dendrite bundles of their motoneurons seem to be linked to the transition from the immature into the adult-like patterns of moving and postural control.