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Somatosens Mot Res. 2015;32(4):254-61. doi: 10.3109/08990220.2015.1091770. Epub 2015 Oct 16.

The effects of acute and prolonged muscle vibration on the function of the muscle spindle's reflex arc.

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a Applied Musculoskeletal and Human Physiology Laboratory, Oklahoma State University , Stillwater , OK , USA.



Localized mechanical vibration, applied directly to a muscle, is known to have powerful, duration-dependent effects on the muscle spindle's reflex arc. Here, the conditioning of the function of the spindle reflex arc via vibration was examined with considerations for use as a non-invasive, sensorimotor research tool.


Muscle spindle function was examined with patellar tendon taps prior to and following exposure to muscle vibration applied to the quadriceps femoris for acute (<5 s) and prolonged (20 min) durations. Surface electromyography (sEMG), torque, and accelerometry signals were obtained during the taps to quantify various measures of reflex magnitude and latency.


Our findings suggest that acute vibration had no effect on normalized reflex torque or sEMG amplitude (p > 0.05), but increased total reflex latency (p = 0.022). Alternatively, prolonged vibration reduced normalized reflex torque and sEMG amplitude (p < 0.001), and increased reflex latency (p < 0.001).


Our findings support the use of prolonged vibration as a practical means to decrease the function of the muscle spindle's reflex arc. Overall, this suppressive effect was evident in the majority of subjects, but the extent was variable. This approach could potentially be used to help delineate the muscle spindle's role in various sensory or motor tasks in which more direct measures are not feasible. Acute vibration, however, did not potentiate muscle spindle function as hypothesized. Rather, our results suggest that acute vibration increased total reflex latency. Accordingly, potential mechanical and neurophysiological mechanisms are discussed.


Stretch reflex; myotatic reflex; patellar tendon reflex; proprioception; thixotropy

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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