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Arch Ital Biol. 1973 Feb;111(1):24-57.

The effect of stimulation of Golgi tendon organs and spindle receptors from hindlimb extensor muscles on supraspinal descending inhibitory mechanisms.

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  • 1Istituto di Fisiologia Umana, Cattedra II, Universit√† di Pisa, Italia.


Experiments were performed in precollicular decerebrate cats to investigate whether proprioceptive volleys originating from Golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles may activate supraspinal descending inhibitory mechanisms. Conditioning stimulation of the distal stump of ventral root filaments of L7 or S1 leading to isometric contraction of the gastrocnemius-soleus (GS) muscle inhibited the monosynaptic reflex elicited by stimulation of the ipsilateral plantaris-flexor digitorum and hallucis longus (Pl-FDHL) nerve. The amount and the time course of this Golgi inhibition were greatly increased by direct cross-excitation of the intramuscular branches of the group Ia afferents due to ephaptic stimulation of the sensory fibers, which occurred when a large number of a fibers had been synchronously activated. The postsynaptic and the presynaptic nature of these inhibitory effects, as well as their segmental origin, have been discussed. In no instance, however, did the stimulation of Golgi tendon organs elicit any late inhibition of the test monosynaptic reflex, which could be attributed to a spino-bulbo-spinal (SBS) reflex. Conditioning stimulation of both primary and secondary endings of muscle spindles, induced by dynamic stretch of the lateral gastrocnemius-soleus (LGS) muscle, was unable to elicit any late inhibition of the medial gastrocnemius (MG) monosynaptic reflex. The only changes observed in this experimental condition were a facilitation of the test reflex during the dynamic stretch of the LGS, followed at the end of the stimulus by a prolonged depression. These effects however were due to segmental interactions, since they persisted after postbrachial section of the spinal cord. Intravenous injection of an anticholinesterase, at a dose which greatly potentiated the SBS reflex inhibition produced by conditioning stimulation of the dorsal root L6, did not alter the changes in time course of the test reflex induced either by muscle contraction or by dynamic muscle stretch. Conditioning stimulation of a muscle nerve activated the supraspinal descending mechanism responsible for the inhibitory phase of the SBS reflex only when the high threshold group III muscle afferents (innervating pressure-pain receptors) had been recruited by the electric stimulus. This finding contrasts with the great availability of the system to the low threshold cutaneous afferents. The proprioceptive afferent volleys originating from Golgi tendon organs as well as from both primary and secondary endings of muscle spindles, contrary to the cutaneous and the high threshold muscle afferent volleys, were apparently unable to elicit not only a SBS reflex inhibition, but also any delayed facilitation of monosynaptic extensor reflexes attributable to inhibition of the cerebellar Purkinje cells.

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