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Brain Res. 1992 Aug 28;589(1):39-47.

The basis and functional role of the late EMG activity in human forearm muscles following wrist displacement.

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Department of Neurology, University of California, San Francisco 94143.


The present paper examines the hypothesis that the long latency EMG activity produced by muscle stretch is the result of long loop reflex pathways involved in the control of limb stiffness. We recorded the cerebral responses and late EMG activity in agonist and antagonist muscles following sudden stretch of the wrist extensor muscles under 4 experimental conditions in 11 subjects. In each experiment subjects held their right wrist extended isometrically against a constant force of 2.3 N and a trial was begun with a step increase in the force from 2.3 N to 18.4 N, to stretch the extensor muscle. In the first and second experiments the force change occurred unpredictably and subjects had to either oppose the perturbation (Unpredictable Oppose) or relax the forearm muscles once the increase in force was detected (Unpredictable Let-Go). In the third and fourth experiments the force change occurred predictably when subjects pressed a thumb switch with the left hand to cause it. As before, subjects were instructed to either oppose the perturbation (Predictable Oppose) or relax the forearm muscles (Predictable Let-Go). Responses were recorded from the flexor and extensor carpi radialis muscles and from the scalp. When the perturbing force occurred unpredictably, early latency EMG activity (the MI response) was seen in the stretched extensor muscle, and longer latency EMG activity was seen simultaneously in both extensor and flexor muscles. When the force change occurred predictably the late EMG activity was considerably attenuated, especially in the Predictable Let-Go condition. Cerebral responses similarly depended upon the predictability of the perturbation.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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