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J Physiol. 2005 Nov 1;568(Pt 3):1035-46. Epub 2005 Aug 18.

Muscle spindle signals combine with the sense of effort to indicate limb position.

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Department of Physiology, PO Box 13F, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia.


Experiments were carried out to test the hypothesis that, in the absence of vision, position sense at the human forearm is generated by the combined input from muscle spindles in elbow flexor muscles and signals of central origin giving rise to a sense of effort. In a forearm position-matching task, to remove a possible contribution from the sense of effort, the reference arm was held supported at the test angle. Subjects were less accurate in matching elbow position of the supported forearm than when it was unsupported. Adding a 2 kg weight to the unsupported reference arm led subjects to make matching errors consistent with an increase in the effort signal. Evidence of a contribution from muscle spindles was provided by showing that the direction of position matching errors could be systematically altered by flexion or extension conditioning of the reference arm before its placement at the test angle. Such changes in errors with conditioning could be shown to be present when the reference arm was supported, unsupported, or unsupported and weighted. It is concluded that both peripheral signals from muscle spindles and signals of central origin, associated with the motor command required to maintain arm position against the force of gravity, can provide information about forearm position.

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