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J Physiol. 2000 Mar 15;523 Pt 3:817-27.

Major role for sensory feedback in soleus EMG activity in the stance phase of walking in man.

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Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction, Aalborg University, DK9220 Aalborg, Denmark.


1. Sensory feedback plays a major role in the regulation of the spinal neural locomotor circuitry in cats. The present study investigated whether sensory feedback also plays an important role during walking in 20 healthy human subjects, by arresting or unloading the ankle extensors 6 deg for 210 ms in the stance phase of gait. 2. During the stance phase of walking, unloading of the ankle extensors significantly (P < 0.05) reduced the soleus activity by 50 % in early and mid-stance at an average onset latency of 64 ms. 3. The onset and amplitude of the decrease in soleus activity produced by the unloading were unchanged when the common peroneal nerve, which innervates the ankle dorsiflexors, was reversibly blocked by local injection of lidocaine (n = 3). This demonstrated that the effect could not be caused by a peripherally mediated reciprocal inhibition from afferents in the antagonist nerves. 4. The onset and amplitude of the decrease in soleus activity produced by the unloading were also unchanged when ischaemia was induced in the leg by inflating a cuff placed around the thigh. At the same time, the group Ia-mediated short latency stretch reflex was completely abolished. This demonstrated that group Ia afferents were probably not responsible for the decrease of soleus activity produced by the unloading. 5. The findings demonstrate that afferent feedback from ankle extensors is of significant importance for the activation of these muscles in the stance phase of human walking. Group II and/or group Ib afferents are suggested to constitute an important part of this sensory feedback.

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