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Exp Brain Res. 2001 Oct;140(4):495-504.

Human interlimb reflexes evoked by electrical stimulation of cutaneous nerves innervating the hand and foot.

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Neurophysiology Laboratory, E-401 VVC, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2H9, Canada.


There is some discrepancy over the extent to which reflex pathways from different cutaneous nerves in the hand and foot link the cervical and lumbar spinal cord in neurologically intact humans. The present experiments were designed to determine whether stimulation of a cutaneous nerve in the foot or in the hand evoked reflexes in the non-stimulated limbs (interlimb reflexes). Reflexes were elicited by stimulating (5x1-ms pulses at 300 Hz) the superficial peroneal (SP; innervates the foot dorsum) or superficial radial (SR; innervates the dorsolateral portion of the hand) nerve while subjects (n=10) performed focused contractions of different upper and lower limb muscles. Reflex responses were divided into early (<75 ms), middle (75-120 ms), and late (>120 ms) epochs as determined from averages of 50 sweeps of stimulus-locked electromyographic activity. Significant interlimb reflexes were found at the early latency in 44/106 and 44/103 muscles sampled after SP and SR nerve stimulation, respectively. At the middle latency, significant interlimb reflexes were seen in 89/106 and 87/103 muscles sampled after SP and SR nerve stimulation, respectively. Interlimb reflexes were seen when stimulating at the wrist (i.e. SR nerve) and when stimulating at the ankle (i.e. SP nerve) with an equal probability. The results show that interlimb cutaneous reflexes are widely distributed in humans. The mean latency of the earliest response was quite short and may be mediated by a propriospinal pathway. Functionally, these pathways may provide a substrate for transferring information to coordinate movements between the limb segments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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