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Exp Brain Res. 2003 Jul;151(1):136-44. Epub 2003 May 13.

Long-loop reflex from arm afferents to remote muscles in normal man.

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Department of Neurology, Tokyo Metropolitan Neurological Hospital, Musashidai 2-6-1, Fuchu City, 183-0042, Tokyo, Japan.


The present study was designed to examine the effects of median nerve stimulation on motoneurones of remote muscles in healthy subjects using H-reflex, averaged EMG and PSTH methods. Stimulation of the median nerve induced facilitation of soleus H-reflex from about 50 ms and it reached a peak at about 100 ms of conditioning-test interval. Afferents that induced the facilitation consisted of at least two types of fibres, the high-threshold cutaneous fibres and the low-threshold fibres. When the effects were examined by the averaged surface EMG and PSTH, no facilitation but rather inhibition or inhibition-facilitation was induced in all tested muscles except for the upper limb muscles on the stimulated side. The inhibition latency was shortest in masseter muscle and longest in leg muscles, while values for the contralateral upper limb muscles were in the middle, indicating that the onset of inhibition was delayed from rostral to caudal muscles. Inputs from the median nerve converged to inhibitory interneurones, which mediate the masseter inhibitory reflex. Our findings suggested that inputs from the median nerve initially ascend to the brain, at least to the brainstem, and then descend to the spinal cord. Therefore, inhibition induced by median nerve stimulation was not considered as an interlimb reflex mediated by a propriospinal pathway, but long-loop reflex, at least via the pons. The discrepancy between the results of reflex and motor units suggests that facilitation of soleus H-reflex following median nerve stimulation was mainly due to reduced presynaptic inhibition.

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