Alexis B. Slutsky-Ganesh1, Manish Anand1, Jed A. Diekfuss1, Dustin R. Grooms2, Gregory D. Myer1. 1Emory University, Atlanta, GA. 2Ohio University, Athens, OH.

BACKGROUND: Athletes with high injury risk landing mechanics rely on greater recruitment of cognition-based brain regions for knee motor control. However, prior research utilizing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and 3D motion analysis to isolate neural activity of knee motor control has been limited to unilateral movements, and thus could not evaluated lower extremity motor coordination. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between bilateral knee motor control kinematics and brain activity using a novel, multi-joint fMRI leg press paradigm. METHODS: Seventeen adolescent female athletes (15.0 ± 1.4 years) completed a bilateral leg press during fMRI with concurrent 3D motion capture to quantify interlimb coordination via the correlation between peak-to-peak knee flexion cycle time between legs. Participants completed 4-30sec blocks of bilateral, ankle, knee, and hip flexion and extension movements against resistance, interspersed with 30-sec rest blocks while undergoing brain fMRI. During the movement blocks, participants moved to the beat of a metronome (1.2 Hz) while fully instrumented for biomechanical assessment using a single camera, MRI-compatible 3D motion analysis system. Standard preprocessing and statistical analyses for task-based neuroimaging were completed in FSL, with lower extremity coordination as a covariate of interest. A cluster wise multi-comparison correction was applied at z>3.1 and p <.05. RESULTS: Less lower extremity coordination during the bilateral leg press resulted in greater activation in the posterior cingulate gyrus and precuneus (voxels=478, zmax=5.56, p<.001), bilateral clusters in the lateral occipital cortices (right: voxels=157, zmax =5.29, p<.021; left: voxels=141, zmax =6.84, p=.033), and the right hippocampus (voxels=138, zmax =4.13, p=.036). CONCLUSIONS: Less lower extremity coordination during a leg press maneuver resulted in greater activation of attention- and memory-related brain regions. Such increased activity may indicate elevated cognitive appraisal of motor control, limiting or interfering with optimal processes for coordination. Future research aiming to improve bimanual motor coordination should consider interventional approaches capable of promoting neural efficiency of cognitive and memory regions during physical activity (e.g., dual-task neuromuscular training).

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