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J Neurophysiol. 1996 Aug;76(2):1112-20.

Soleus stretch reflex modulation during gait in humans.

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Department of Medical Informatics and Image Analysis, Aalborg University, Denmark.


1. The modulation of the short-latency stretch reflex during walking at different walking speeds was investigated and compared with the stretch reflex during standing in healthy human subjects. 2. Ankle joint stretches were applied by a system able to rotate the human ankle joint during treadmill walking in any phase of the step cycle. The system consisted of a mechanical joint attached to the subject's ankle joint and connected to a motor placed beside the treadmill by means of bowden wires. The weight of the total system attached to the leg of the subject was 900 g. 3. The short-latency soleus stretch reflex was modulated during a step. In the stance phase, the amplitude equaled that found during standing at matched soleus background electromyogram (EMG). In the transition from stance to swing, the amplitude was 0 in all subjects. In late swing, the stretch reflex amplitude increased to 45 +/- 27% (mean +/- SD) of the maximal amplitude in the stance phase (stretch amplitude 8 degrees, stretch velocity 250 degrees/s). 4. The onset (42 +/- 3.2 ms) and peak latencies (59 +/- 2.5 ms) of the stretch reflex did not depend on the phase in the step cycle at which the reflex was elicited. 5. When the ankle joint is rotated, a change in torque can be measured. The torque measured over the first 35 ms after stretch onset (nonreflex torque) was at a maximum during late stance, when the leg supported a large part of the body's weight, and at a minimum during the swing phase. At heel contact the nonreflex torque was 50% of its maximal value. 6. During the stance phase the maximal EMG stretch reflex had a phase lead of approximately 120 ms with respect to the maximal background EMG and a phase lead of approximately 250 ms with respect to the maximal nonreflex torque. 7. The constant latency of the stretch reflex during a step implied that the ankle extensor muscle spindles are always taut during walking. 8. The relatively high amplitude of the stretch reflex in late swing and at heel contact made it likely that the stretch reflex contributed to the activation of the ankle extensor muscles in early stance phase.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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