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Muscular System – Muscles of the Human Body

Posted: September 23, 2015 at 3:48 pm

[Continued from above] . . . Muscular System Anatomy

Muscle Types There are three types of muscle tissue:Visceral, cardiac, and skeletal.

The cells of cardiac muscle tissue are striatedthat is, they appear to have light and dark stripes when viewed under a light microscope. The arrangement of protein fibers inside of the cells causes these light and dark bands. Striations indicate that a muscle cell is very strong, unlike visceral muscles.

The cells of cardiac muscle are branched X or Y shaped cells tightly connected together by special junctions called intercalated disks. Intercalated disks are made up of fingerlike projections from two neighboring cells that interlock and provide a strong bond between the cells. The branched structure and intercalated disks allow the muscle cells to resist high blood pressures and the strain of pumping blood throughout a lifetime. These features also help to spread electrochemical signals quickly from cell to cell so that the heart can beat as a unit.

Skeletal muscle cells form when many smaller progenitor cells lump themselves together to form long, straight, multinucleated fibers. Striated just like cardiac muscle, these skeletal muscle fibers are very strong. Skeletal muscle derives its name from the fact that these muscles always connect to the skeleton in at least one place.

Gross Anatomy of a Skeletal Muscle Most skeletal muscles are attached to two bones through tendons. Tendons are tough bands of dense regular connective tissue whose strong collagen fibers firmly attach muscles to bones. Tendons are under extreme stress when muscles pull on them, so they are very strong and are woven into the coverings of both muscles and bones.

Muscles move by shortening their length, pulling on tendons, and moving bones closer to each other. One of the bones is pulled towards the other bone, which remains stationary. The place on the stationary bone that is connected via tendons to the muscle is called the origin. The place on the moving bone that is connected to the muscle via tendons is called the insertion. The belly of the muscle is the fleshy part of the muscle in between the tendons that does the actual contraction.

Names of Skeletal Muscles Skeletal muscles are named based on many different factors, including their location, origin and insertion, number of origins, shape, size, direction, and function.

Groups Action in Skeletal Muscle Skeletal muscles rarely work by themselves to achieve movements in the body. More often they work in groups to produce precise movements. The muscle that produces any particular movement of the body is known as an agonist or prime mover. The agonist always pairs with an antagonist muscle that produces the opposite effect on the same bones. For example, the biceps brachii muscle flexes the arm at the elbow. As the antagonist for this motion, the triceps brachii muscle extends the arm at the elbow. When the triceps is extending the arm, the biceps would be considered the antagonist.

In addition to the agonist/antagonist pairing, other muscles work to support the movements of the agonist. Synergists are muscles that help to stabilize a movement and reduce extraneous movements. They are usually found in regions near the agonist and often connect to the same bones. Because skeletal muscles move the insertion closer to the immobile origin, fixator muscles assist in movement by holding the origin stable. If you lift something heavy with your arms, fixators in the trunk region hold your body upright and immobile so that you maintain your balance while lifting.

Skeletal Muscle Histology Skeletal muscle fibers differ dramatically from other tissues of the body due to their highly specialized functions. Many of the organelles that make up muscle fibers are unique to this type of cell.

The sarcolemma is the cell membrane of muscle fibers. The sarcolemma acts as a conductor for electrochemical signals that stimulate muscle cells. Connected to the sarcolemma are transverse tubules (T-tubules) that help carry these electrochemical signals into the middle of the muscle fiber. The sarcoplasmic reticulum serves as a storage facility for calcium ions (Ca2+) that are vital to muscle contraction. Mitochondria, the power houses of the cell, are abundant in muscle cells to break down sugars and provide energy in the form of ATP to active muscles. Most of the muscle fibers structure is made up of myofibrils, which are the contractile structures of the cell. Myofibrils are made up of many proteins fibers arranged into repeating subunits called sarcomeres. The sarcomere is the functional unit of muscle fibers. (See Macronutrients for more information about the roles of sugars and proteins.)

Sarcomere Structure Sarcomeres are made of two types of protein fibers: thick filaments and thin filaments.

Function of Muscle Tissue The main function of the muscular system is movement. Muscles are the only tissue in the body that has the ability to contract and therefore move the other parts of the body.

Related to the function of movement is the muscular systems second function: the maintenance of posture and body position. Muscles often contract to hold the body still or in a particular position rather than to cause movement. The muscles responsible for the bodys posture have the greatest endurance of all muscles in the bodythey hold up the body throughout the day without becoming tired.

Another function related to movement is the movement of substances inside the body. The cardiac and visceral muscles are primarily responsible for transporting substances like blood or food from one part of the body to another.

The final function of muscle tissue is the generation of body heat. As a result of the high metabolic rate of contracting muscle, our muscular system produces a great deal of waste heat. Many small muscle contractions within the body produce our natural body heat. When we exert ourselves more than normal, the extra muscle contractions lead to a rise in body temperature and eventually to sweating.

Skeletal Muscles as Levers Skeletal muscles work together with bones and joints to form lever systems. The muscle acts as the effort force; the joint acts as the fulcrum; the bone that the muscle moves acts as the lever; and the object being moved acts as the load.

There are three classes of levers, but the vast majority of the levers in the body are third class levers. A third class lever is a system in which the fulcrum is at the end of the lever and the effort is between the fulcrum and the load at the other end of the lever. The third class levers in the body serve to increase the distance moved by the load compared to the distance that the muscle contracts.

The tradeoff for this increase in distance is that the force required to move the load must be greater than the mass of the load. For example, the biceps brachia of the arm pulls on the radius of the forearm, causing flexion at the elbow joint in a third class lever system. A very slight change in the length of the biceps causes a much larger movement of the forearm and hand, but the force applied by the biceps must be higher than the load moved by the muscle.

Motor Units Nerve cells called motor neurons control the skeletal muscles. Each motor neuron controls several muscle cells in a group known as a motor unit. When a motor neuron receives a signal from the brain, it stimulates all of the muscles cells in its motor unit at the same time.

The size of motor units varies throughout the body, depending on the function of a muscle. Muscles that perform fine movementslike those of theeyes or fingershave very few muscle fibers in each motor unit to improve the precision of the brains control over these structures. Muscles that need a lot of strength to perform their functionlike leg or arm muscleshave many muscle cells in each motor unit. One of the ways that the body can control the strength of each muscle is by determining how many motor units to activate for a given function. This explains why the same muscles that are used to pick up a pencil are also used to pick up a bowling ball.

Contraction Cycle Muscles contract when stimulated by signals from their motor neurons. Motor neurons contact muscle cells at a point called the Neuromuscular Junction (NMJ). Motor neurons release neurotransmitter chemicals at the NMJ that bond to a special part of the sarcolemma known as the motor end plate. The motor end plate contains many ion channels that open in response to neurotransmitters and allow positive ions to enter the muscle fiber. The positive ions form an electrochemical gradient to form inside of the cell, which spreads throughout the sarcolemma and the T-tubules by opening even more ion channels.

When the positive ions reach the sarcoplasmic reticulum, Ca2+ ions are released and allowed to flow into the myofibrils. Ca2+ ions bind to troponin, which causes the troponin molecule to change shape and move nearby molecules of tropomyosin. Tropomyosin is moved away from myosin binding sites on actin molecules, allowing actin and myosin to bind together.

ATP molecules power myosin proteins in the thick filaments to bend and pull on actin molecules in the thin filaments. Myosin proteins act like oars on a boat, pulling the thin filaments closer to the center of a sarcomere. As the thin filaments are pulled together, the sarcomere shortens and contracts. Myofibrils of muscle fibers are made of many sarcomeres in a row, so that when all of the sarcomeres contract, the muscle cells shortens with a great force relative to its size.

Muscles continue contraction as long as they are stimulated by a neurotransmitter. When a motor neuron stops the release of the neurotransmitter, the process of contraction reverses itself. Calcium returns to the sarcoplasmic reticulum; troponin and tropomyosin return to their resting positions; and actin and myosin are prevented from binding. Sarcomeres return to their elongated resting state once the force of myosin pulling on actin has stopped.

Types of Muscle Contraction The strength of a muscles contraction can be controlled by two factors: the number of motor units involved in contraction and the amount of stimulus from the nervous system. A single nerve impulse of a motor neuron will cause a motor unit to contract briefly before relaxing. This small contraction is known as a twitch contraction. If the motor neuron provides several signals within a short period of time, the strength and duration of the muscle contraction increases. This phenomenon is known as temporal summation. If the motor neuron provides many nerve impulses in rapid succession, the muscle may enter the state of tetanus, or complete and lasting contraction. A muscle will remain in tetanus until the nerve signal rate slows or until the muscle becomes too fatigued to maintain the tetanus.

Not all muscle contractions produce movement. Isometric contractions are light contractions that increase the tension in the muscle without exerting enough force to move a body part. When people tense their bodies due to stress, they are performing an isometric contraction. Holding an object still and maintaining posture are also the result of isometric contractions. A contraction that does produce movement is an isotonic contraction. Isotonic contractions are required to develop muscle mass through weight lifting.

Muscle tone is a natural condition in which a skeletal muscle stays partially contracted at all times. Muscle tone provides a slight tension on the muscle to prevent damage to the muscle and joints from sudden movements, and also helps to maintain the bodys posture. All muscles maintain some amount of muscle tone at all times, unless the muscle has been disconnected from the central nervous system due to nerve damage.

Functional Types of Skeletal Muscle Fibers Skeletal muscle fibers can be divided into two types based on how they produce and use energy: Type I and Type II.

Muscle Metabolism and Fatigue Muscles get their energy from different sources depending on the situation that the muscle is working in. Muscles use aerobic respiration when we call on them to produce a low to moderate level of force. Aerobic respiration requires oxygen to produce about 36-38 ATP molecules from a molecule of glucose. Aerobic respiration is very efficient, and can continue as long as a muscle receives adequate amounts of oxygen and glucose to keep contracting. When we use muscles to produce a high level of force, they become so tightly contracted that oxygen carrying blood cannot enter the muscle. This condition causes the muscle to create energy using lactic acid fermentation, a form of anaerobic respiration. Anaerobic respiration is much less efficient than aerobic respirationonly 2 ATP are produced for each molecule of glucose. Muscles quickly tire as they burn through their energy reserves under anaerobic respiration.

To keep muscles working for a longer period of time, muscle fibers contain several important energy molecules. Myoglobin, a red pigment found in muscles, contains iron and stores oxygen in a manner similar to hemoglobin in the blood. The oxygen from myoglobin allows muscles to continue aerobic respiration in the absence of oxygen. Another chemical that helps to keep muscles working is creatine phosphate. Muscles use energy in the form of ATP, converting ATP to ADP to release its energy. Creatine phosphate donates its phosphate group to ADP to turn it back into ATP in order to provide extra energy to the muscle. Finally, muscle fibers contain energy-storing glycogen, a large macromolecule made of many linked glucoses. Active muscles break glucoses off of glycogen molecules to provide an internal fuel supply.

When muscles run out of energy during either aerobic or anaerobic respiration, the muscle quickly tires and loses its ability to contract. This condition is known as muscle fatigue. A fatigued muscle contains very little or no oxygen, glucose or ATP, but instead has many waste products from respiration, like lactic acid and ADP. The body must take in extra oxygen after exertion to replace the oxygen that was stored in myoglobin in the muscle fiber as well as to power the aerobic respiration that will rebuild the energy supplies inside of the cell. Oxygen debt (or recovery oxygen uptake) is the name for the extra oxygen that the body must take in to restore the muscle cells to their resting state. This explains why you feel out of breath for a few minutes after a strenuous activityyour body is trying to restore itself to its normal state.

Prepared by Tim Taylor, Anatomy and Physiology Instructor

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Muscular System - Muscles of the Human Body

Recommendation and review posted by Guinevere Smith