The relationship between the kinematics of passive movement, the stretch of extensor muscles of the leg and the change induced in the gain of the soleus H reflex in humans
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The gain of the H reflex attenuates during passive stepping and pedalling movements of the leg. We hypothesized that the kinematics of the movement indirectly reflect the receptor origin of this attenuation. In the first experiment, H reflexes were evoked in soleus at 26 points in the cycle of slow, passive pedalling movement of the leg and at 13 points with the leg static (the ankle was always immobilized). Maximum inhibition occurred as the leg moved through its most flexed position (P < 0.05). Inhibition observed in the static leg was also strongest at this position (P < 0.05). The increase in inhibition was gradual during flexion movement, with rapid reversal of this increase during extension. In the second experiment, the length of stretch of the vasti muscles was modelled. Variable pedal crank lengths and revolutions per minute (rpm) altered leg joint displacements and angular velocities. Equivalent rates of stretch of the vasti, achieved through different combinations of joint displacements and velocities, elicited equivalent attenuations of mean reflex magnitudes in the flexed leg. Reflex gain exponentially related to rate of stretch (R2 = 0.98 P < 0.01). The results imply that gain attenuation of this spinal sensorimotor path arises from spindle discharge in heteronymous extensor muscles of knee and/or hip, concomitant with movement.
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