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The influence of mental load on muscle tension

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We examined the differences in muscle tension and in physiological measures depending on the type of mental task. Fifteen participants performed tests for sustained attention, vigilance and maintaining posture only. We analysed electromyogram (EMG) measures of extensor digitorum (ED), flexor carpi ulnaris (FU), deltoideus (DE) and trapezius (TR), and heart rate (HR) and respiratory frequency (RF). Measures indicated higher values for mental tasks than for maintained posture only with significant differences in all measures. The following relationships were also significant: between DE and physiological measures (HR and RF), between ED and the amplitude of EMG of the other three muscles, between FU and TR and between HR and RF. The results of this study showed that the relationship between mental demands and muscle tension was mostly reflected by tension in the arm and shoulder girdle muscles and, to a lesser degree, in forearm muscles.

Practitioner Summary: We focused on physiological and muscle tension measures differentiating work according to the level of mental demands. Differences in sustained attention, vigilance and maintaining posture only proved that mental demands were mostly reflected by tension in arm and shoulder girdle muscles and, to a lesser degree, in forearm muscles.
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Keywords: electromyography; mental demands; musculoskeletal load; shoulder; upper limb

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Ergonomics, Central Institute for Labour Protection – National Research Institute (CIOP-PIB), Warsaw, Poland 2: Faculty of Transport, Warsaw University of Technology, Warsaw, Poland

Publication date: July 1, 2013

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