synchronization, motor neuron, motor unit, open-source, R package, common input, cross-correlogram, motor control, recurrence intervals
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Motor unit synchronization is the tendency of motor neurons and their associated muscle fibers to discharge near-simultaneously. It has been theorized as a control mechanism for force generation by common excitatory inputs to these motor neurons. Magnitude of synchronization is calculated from peaks in cross-correlation histograms between motor unit discharge trains. However, there are many different methods for detecting these peaks and even more indices for calculating synchronization from them. Methodology is typically laboratory-specific and requires expensive software, like Matlab or LabView. This lack of standardization makes it difficult to draw definitive conclusions about motor unit synchronization. To combat this, we have developed a freely available, open-source toolbox, “motoRneuron”, for the R programming language. This toolbox contains functions for calculating time domain synchronization using different methods found in the literature. Our objective is to detail the program’s functionality and provide a clear use-case for implementation. The programs primary function “mu_synch” automatically performs the cross-correlation analysis based on user input. Automated peak detection methods such as the cumulative sum method and the z-score method, as well as subjective, visual analysis are available. Users can also define other parameters like the number of recurrence intervals to be used and histogram bin size. The function outputs six common synchronization indices, the common input strength (CIS), k’, k’-1, E, S, and Synch Index. This toolbox allows for better standardization of techniques and for more comprehensive data mining in the motor control community.