Movement-induced modulation of soleus H reflexes with altered length of biarticular muscles
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Passive pedaling movements of the leg results in the phasic modulation of the soleus H reflex of that leg. In contrast, the H reflex of the contralateral leg is attenuated tonically. The phasic modulation of the reflex ipsilaterally can be attributed to the afferent discharge associated with the cyclic lengthening of the extensor muscles. We hypothesized that the tonic attenuation of the contralateral reflex could be explained if the afferent feedback arising from the lengthening of the biarticular muscles had an increased importance in regulating the amplitude of the contralateral reflex. To test this, the passive pedaling movements were reduced to those about either the knee or hip alone. Despite the alteration in the pattern of stretching of the biarticular muscles, the contralateral soleus H reflex was tonically attenuated during both forms of single joint movements. We suggest that the same phasic afferent discharge responsible for the modulation of the ipsilateral soleus H reflex initiates the tonic attenuation contralaterally, but that the signal undergoes a complex transformation in crossing the cord. These results do not rule out the possibility that the stretching of the biarticular muscles contributes to the attenuation of the ipsilateral soleus H reflex, which is subsequently masked by a powerful influence from the stretching of the uniarticular extensor muscles. To test this possibility, a second experiment manipulated the lengths of the muscles of the leg by altering the positions of the static joints during isolated rotation of either the knee or hip and measuring the amplitude of the ipsilateral soleus H reflex. From the results, it was clear that stretching the uniarticular extensor muscles produced the most dramatic effects. However, the stretch of the biarticular muscles yielded mild inhibitory influences if these muscles were near their maximal lengths.
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