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J Neurophysiol. 2002 Nov;88(5):2207-14.

Positive proprioceptive feedback elicited by isometric contractions of ankle flexors on pretibial motoneurons in cats.

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Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 2361, Unité Mixte de Recherche 8119, Université René Descartes, 75270 Paris, France.


Pretibial flexor motoneurons were recorded intracellularly in anesthetized cats during unfused isometric contractions of a subpopulation of motor units from either tibialis anterior (TA) or extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles. The contractions elicited excitatory postsynaptic potentials in 23 of 28 pretibial flexor motoneurons. No effect was observed in the remaining motoneurons. In control experiments, the effects of electrical stimulation of afferents within the TA nerve were investigated to help identify afferents responsible for the contraction-induced positive feedback. This feedback was ascribed to actions of Ia fibers because the pattern of the contraction-induced excitatory potentials was consistent with the known pattern of Ia discharge; in control experiments, electrical stimulation of group I fibers elicited only monosynaptic excitatory potentials; and the distribution of both the contraction-induced positive feedback among motor nuclei as well as the electrically evoked Ia excitatory monosynaptic potentials were restricted to homonymous and synergic motoneurons. Observation of the Ia contraction-induced positive feedback was facilitated by the absence of Ib autogenic inhibition. This contraction-induced Ia excitatory feedback in ankle flexors might either reinforce Ia-induced reflexes when these muscles are lengthened or help to lift the leg over an obstacle.

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