Oct 1, 1982
Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry
This book is the latest in an expensive series of volumes covering topics in clinical electrophysiology. In this volume there are five chapters dealing with motor unit anatomy and mechanical properties, recruitment, firing patterns and plasticity in health and disease. Each chapter contains a number of articles written by different authors. The main failing of books of this sort is that they fall into a no-mans-land between being a useful collection of organised and collated articles written by experts dealing formally with various aspects of a given topic and a collection of separate papers that might have been delivered at a scientific symposium dealing with the same topics. Such books easily become receptacles for articles containing new data that have not been subject to the usual process of critical review. This is a growing but. regrettable trend in scientific publishing epitomised by a number of currently available popular attractively produced moderately priced monthly pseudo magazinejournals. This book contains a number of articles unlikely to be accepted for publication elsewhere. The first chapter starts with an excellent review by E Kugelberg on the anatomy and physiology of motor units. This is a good read for clinical electromyographers. The next chapter deals with spinal mechanisms underlying motor unit recruitment. Appropriately it begins with an intentionally personal account by E Henneman of the ideas that led to the formulation of his size principle. According to this scheme Henneman seeks to explain motor unit recruitment in terms of differences in anatomical size of motoneurons. Experimental evidence is set out to support this view. This is followed by a critical appraisal of these ideas by RE Burke who discusses motor unit recruitment not only in terms of the factors intrinsic to motoneurons themselves but also in terms of a number of features related to the organisation of central synaptic input to the cells and Occam's razor. In a long article JE Desmedt reproduces his last four years of published work on motor unit recruitment. This is a great convenience. VR Edgerton and S Cremer summarise what they could find out about changes in muscle fibre properties and training and include some useful pointers for the selection of racehorses. In another long article JE Desmedt describes some new observations in clinical emg using spike triggered' display. This is an excellent and comprehensive article opening up new ground. It should be read by all interested in clinical electromyography. In summary this book contains a useful collection of articles, some old, some new, some critical, some simply a review. It will undoubtedly find its way onto the desk of most students of motor unit physiology if only because it contains such a convenient source of articles and references expressing the views held by major investigators in this field.