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J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2002 Jun;12(3):167-76.

Spinal and supraspinal effects of activity in ligament afferents.

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Southern Lapland Research Department, S-912 22 Vilhelmina, Sweden.


In this paper available knowledge on effects from joint and ligament afferents on spinal neurones and pathways are briefly reviewed, and possible functional implications discussed. Ligament afferents may contribute to joint stability, muscle coordination and proprioception through direct polysynaptic reflex effects onto ascending pathways and skeletomotoneurones, and/or indirectly via reflex actions on the gamma-muscle spindle system. Theoretical and experimental evidence indicate that ligament afferents, together with afferents from other joint structures, muscles and the skin, provide the CNS with information on movements and posture through ensemble coding mechanisms, rather than via modality specific private pathways. The existence and functional relevance of ligamentomuscular protective reflexes, that are triggered when the ligament is threatened by potentially harmful loads, has been seriously questioned. It seems more likely that peripheral sensory inputs from ligament afferents participate in a continuous control of the muscle activity through feedforward, or preprogramming, mechanisms. In line with these ideas it has been suggested that ligament mechanoreceptors have an important role in muscle coordination and in the reflex regulation of the functional joint stability, by contributing to the preprogramming of the muscle stiffness through reflex modulation of the gamma-muscle spindle system.

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