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J Physiol. 1995 May 15;485 ( Pt 1):271-82.

Coding of pulsatile motor output by human muscle afferents during slow finger movements.

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Department of Physiology, University of Göteborg, Sweden.


1. Impulse activities of thirty-eight muscle spindle and tendon organ afferents from the finger extensor muscles were recorded in the radial nerve of human subjects while the subjects performed voluntary flexion and extension finger movements at a single metacarpophalangeal joint. 2. The afferent firing was analysed in relation to the 8-10 Hz discontinuities which previously have been shown to characterize these movements. Spike-triggered averaging and frequency domain analyses demonstrated that all Ia muscle spindle afferents and a large proportion of group II spindle afferents responded in close association with local peaks in the joint acceleration. During muscle lengthening the impulses appeared during phases of rapid muscle stretch, whereas they appeared during the phase of minimal speed during muscle shortening. 3. The Golgi tendon organ (Ib) afferents displayed a reverse pattern of activity in relation to the discontinuities, i.e. the impulses tended to appear in the phase of minimal speed during lengthening movements and close to maximal shortening speed during shortening movements. Hence, their firing often coincided with the phasic increases of the parent muscle activity which account for the 8-10 Hz discontinuities. 4. A close analysis of the time relations between spindle firing and the kinematics of the 8-10 Hz discontinuities revealed that the population spindle response was too delayed and too dispersed to support the hypothesis that the discontinuities are accounted for by the stretch reflex. 5. If, as suggested in a previous paper, the 8-10 Hz discontinuities are produced by a pulsatile descending motor command, the coding of the periodic but tenuous kinematic events by the population of proprioceptors may have a role in relation to an alleged pulsatile command generator.

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