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Abstract

Previous studies have examined the isometric contraction properties of the two heads of the cat flexor carpi ulnaris acting as a single unit. In this study, the contraction properties and fiber architecture of each head of the flexor carpi ulnaris were determined separately and related to previous reports on the histochemical characteristics of this muscle. The morphology of retrograde-labeled motor nuclei for the two heads of the muscle was also examined. The humeral head had a significantly longer contraction time (48 msec) than the ulnar head (36 msec) as well as a significantly lower tetanic fusion frequency (28 Hz vs. 35 Hz). The maximum tetanic tension per gram of muscle tissue was 71% greater in the ulnar head. Motoneurons of the flexor carpi ulnaris formed a column 12 mm long and 0.5 mm wide in the center of the ventral grey in spinal segments C8 and T1. The ulnar head had α-motoneurons with greater soma diameters than those in the humeral head. The smaller soma diameter, slower contraction time, and weaker contraction in the humeral head correlate with the preponderance of oxidative-metabolic muscle fiber types found in the humeral head by other workers. These correlations suggest that the humeral head plays a major role in maintaining a sustained antigravity tension that prevents the wrist from buckling during standing.