Motor synergies, i.e., neural mechanisms that organize multiple motor elements to ensure stability of actions, are affected by several neurological condition. Asymptomatic welders showed impaired synergy controlling the stability of multi-finger action compared to non-welders and this impairment was associated with microstructural damage in the globus pallidus. We further explored the effect of welding-related metal exposure on multi-finger synergy and extended our investigation to posture-stabilizing synergy during a standing task. Occupational, MRI, and performance-stabilizing synergies during multi-finger accurate force production and load releasing while standing were obtained from 29 welders and 19 age- and sex-matched controls. R2* and R1 relaxation rate values were used to estimate brain iron and manganese content, respectively, and diffusion tensor imaging was used to reflect brain microstructural integrity. Associations of brain MRI (caudate, putamen, globus pallidus, and red nucleus), and motor synergy were explored by group status. The results revealed that welders had higher R2* values in the caudate (p = 0.03), putamen (p = 0.01), and red nucleus (p = 0.08, trend) than controls. No group effect was revealed on multi-finger synergy index during steady-state phase of action (ΔVZss). Compared to controls, welders exhibited lower ΔVZss (−0.106 ± 0.084 vs. 0.160 ± 0.092, p = 0.04) and variance that did not affect the performance variable (VUCM, 0.022 ± 0.003 vs. 0.038 ± 0.007, p = 0.03) in the load releasing, postural task. The postural synergy index, ΔVZss, was associated negatively with higher R2* in the red nucleus in welders (r = −0.44, p = 0.03), but not in controls. These results suggest that the synergy index in the load releasing during a standing task may reflect welding-related neurotoxicity in workers with chronic metals exposure. This finding may have important clinical and occupational health implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-336
Number of pages13
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Toxicology


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