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J Neurophysiol. 2011 Sep;106(3):1489-99. doi: 10.1152/jn.00084.2011. Epub 2011 Jun 29.

Heteronymous reflex connections in human upper limb muscles in response to stretch of forearm muscles.

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Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.


Torque motor produced stretch of upper limb muscles results in two distinct reflex peaks in the electromyographic activity. Whereas the short-latency reflex (SLR) response is mediated largely by the spinal monosynaptic reflex pathway, the longer-latency reflex (LLR) is suggested to involve a transcortical loop. For the SLRs, patterns of heteronymous monosynaptic Ia connections have been well-studied for a large number of muscles in the cat and in humans. For LLRs, information is available for perturbations to proximal joints, although the protocols for most of these studies did not focus on heteronymous connections. The main objective of the present study was to elicit both SLRs and LLRs in wrist flexors and extensors and to examine heteronymous connections from these muscles to elbow flexors (biceps brachii; BiBr) and extensors (triceps brachii; TriBr) and to selected distal muscles, including abductor pollicis longus (APL), first dorsal interosseous (FDI), abductor digiti minimi (ADM), and Thenars. The stretch of wrist flexors produced SLR and LLR peaks in APL, FDI, ADM, Thenars, and BiBr while simultaneously inducing inhibition of wrist extensors and TriBr. When wrist extensors were stretched, SLR and LLR peaks were observed in TriBr, whereas the primary wrist flexors, APL and BiBr, were inhibited; response patterns of FDI, ADM, and Thenars were less consistent. The main conclusions from the observed data are that: 1) as in the cat, afferents from wrist flexors and extensors make heteronymous connections with proximal and distal upper limb muscles; and 2) the strength of heteronymous connections is greater for LLRs than SLRs in the distal muscles, whereas the opposite is true for the proximal muscles. In the majority of observations, SLR and LLR excitatory peaks were observed together. However, on occasion, LLRs were observed without the SLR response in hand muscles when wrist extensors were stretched.

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