Mechanisms ofin vivomuscle fatigue in humans: investigating age-related fatigue resistance with a computational model

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Abstract

During repeated or sustained muscle activation, force-generating capacity becomes limited in a process referred to as fatigue. Multiple factors, including motor unit activation patterns, muscle fibre contractile properties and bioenergetic function, can impact force-generating capacity and thus the potential to resist fatigue. Given that neuromuscular fatigue depends on interrelated factors, quantifying their independent effects on force-generating capacity is not possible in vivo. Computational models can provide insight into complex systems in which multiple inputs determine discrete outputs. However, few computational models to date have investigated neuromuscular fatigue by incorporating the multiple levels of neuromuscular function known to impact human in vivo function. To address this limitation, we present a computational model that predicts neural activation, biomechanical forces, intracellular metabolic perturbations and, ultimately, fatigue during repeated isometric contractions. This model was compared with metabolic and contractile responses to repeated activation using values reported in the literature. Once validated in this way, the model was modified to reflect age-related changes in neuromuscular function. Comparisons between initial and age-modified simulations indicated that the age-modified model predicted less fatigue during repeated isometric contractions, consistent with reports in the literature. Together, our simulations suggest that reduced glycolytic flux is the greatest contributor to the phenomenon of age-related fatigue resistance. In contrast, oxidative resynthesis of phosphocreatine between intermittent contractions and inherent buffering capacity had minimal impact on predicted fatigue during isometric contractions. The insights gained from these simulations cannot be achieved through traditional in vivo or in vitro experimentation alone.

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