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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1999 Feb;86(2):767-72.

Characteristics of the muscle mechanoreflex during quadriceps contractions in humans.

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  • 1Sections of Cardiology, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey 17033, Pennsylvania, USA.


We examined muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) in the nonexercising lower limb during repetitive static quadriceps contraction paradigm at 25% maximal voluntary contraction in eight men. Subjects performed 20-s contractions with 5-s rest periods for up to 12 contractions. Although the workload was constant, we found that MSNA amplitude rose as a function of contraction number [0.6 ln (amplitude/min)/contraction]; this suggests chemical sensitization of the muscle reflex response. We employed signal-averaging techniques and then integrated the data to examine the onset latency of the MSNA response as a function of the 25-s contraction-rest period. We observed an onset latency of approximately 4-6 s. Moreover, although the onset latency did not appear to vary as a function of contraction number, the rate of MSNA increase took approximately four contractions to reach a steady-state rate of rise; this suggests contraction-induced sensitization. The onset latency reported here is similar to findings in recent animal studies, but it is at odds with latencies determined in prior human handgrip contraction studies. We believe our data suggest that 1) mechanically sensitive afferents contribute importantly to the MSNA response to the paradigm employed and 2) these afferents may be sensitized by the chemical products of muscle contraction.

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