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Exp Brain Res. 1999 Apr;125(3):265-70.

Modulation of the biceps femoris tendon jerk reflex during human locomotion.

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Department of Clinical Neurology and Neurophysiology, University of Freiburg, Germany.


During gait it is generally accepted that there is a reduction in amplitude of H-reflexes as compared to standing. For short-latency stretch reflexes, however, it is less clear whether a similar reduction in reflex gain is present during locomotion. Stretches of constant amplitude are hard to produce under these circumstances and for this reason some previous studies on the biceps femoris (BF) have used "reduced gait" in which the stimulated leg is stepping on the spot while the contralateral leg is walking on a treadmill. With this method it was possible to show that BF tendon jerk reflexes are larger at end swing and therefore are likely to contribute to the EMG burst normally occurring in that part of the step cycle when the BF is rapidly stretched. In the present study two questions were addressed: first, whether the reflex is different in size during gait compared to standing and, second, whether it is modulated in size during the gait cycle not only during reduced but also during normal gait. It was found that during both types of gait there was a general reflex depression with regard to the respective control values obtained during standing at similar EMG activity levels. In previous studies on soleus and quadriceps, discrepancies between EMG activity and reflex amplitude have been ascribed to changes in presynaptic inhibition of Ia terminals mediating the afferent volley of the reflex. Based on the data presented, this may also be true for the BF. In both normal and reduced gait the reflex was similarly modulated in size, showing a maximum at the end of swing. This similarity implies that reduced gait may be useful as an acceptable alternative for normal gait in studies on phase-dependent reflex modulation during locomotion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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