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Prog Neurobiol. 1997 Mar;51(4):393-421.

Sensori-sensory afferent conditioning with leg movement: gain control in spinal reflex and ascending paths.

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Department of Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.


Studies are reviewed, predominantly involving healthy humans, on gain changes in spinal reflexes and supraspinal ascending paths during passive and active leg movement. The passive movement research shows that the pathways of H reflexes of the leg and foot are down-regulated as a consequence of movement-elicited discharge from somatosensory receptors, likely muscle spindle primary endings, both ipsi- and contralaterally. Discharge from the conditioning receptors in extensor muscles of the knee and hip appears to lead to presynaptic inhibition evoked over a spinal path, and to long-lasting attenuation when movement stops. The ipsilateral modulation is similar in phase to that seen with active movement. The contralateral conditioning does not phase modulate with passive movement and modulates to the phase of active ipsilateral movement. There are also centrifugal effects onto these pathways during movement. The pathways of the cutaneous reflexes of the human leg also are gain-modulated during active movement. The review summarizes the effects across muscles, across nociceptive and non-nociceptive stimuli and over time elapsed after the stimulus. Some of the gain changes in such reflexes have been associated with central pattern generators. However, the centripetal effect of movement-induced proprioceptive drive awaits exploration in these pathways. Scalp-recorded evoked potentials from rapidly conducting pathways that ascend to the human somatosensory cortex from stimulation sites in the leg also are gain-attenuated in relation to passive movement-elicited discharge of the extensor muscle spindle primary endings. Centrifugal influences due to a requirement for accurate active movement can partially lift the attenuation on the ascending path, both during and before movement. We suggest that a significant role for muscle spindle discharge is to control the gain in Ia pathways from the legs, consequent or prior to their movement. This control can reduce the strength of synaptic input onto target neurons from these kinesthetic receptors, which are powerfully activated by the movement, perhaps to retain the opportunity for target neuron modulation from other control sources.

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