Sex Differences in Spatial Accuracy Relate to the Neural Activation of Antagonistic Muscles in Young Adults
Experimental Brain Research
Sex is an important physiological variable of behavior, but its effect on motor control remains poorly understood. Some evidence suggests that women exhibit greater variability during constant contractions and poorer accuracy during goal-directed tasks. However, it remains unclear whether motor output variability or altered muscle activation impairs accuracy in women. Here, we examine sex differences in endpoint accuracy during ankle goal-directed movements and the activity of the antagonistic muscles. Ten women (23.1 ± 5.1 years) and 10 men (23 ± 3.7 years) aimed to match a target (9° in 180 ms) with ankle dorsiflexion. Participants performed 50 trials and we recorded the endpoint accuracy and the electromyographic (EMG) activity of the primary agonist (Tibialis Anterior; TA) and antagonist (Soleus; SOL) muscles. Women exhibited greater spatial inaccuracy (Position error: t = −2.65, P = 0.016) but not temporal inaccuracy relative to men. The motor output variability was similar for the two sexes (P > 0.2). The spatial inaccuracy in women was related to greater variability in the coordination of the antagonistic muscles (R 2 0.19, P = 0.03). These findings suggest that women are spatially less accurate than men during fast goal-directed movements likely due to an altered activation of the antagonistic muscles.