Habituation of lower leg stretch responses in Parkinson's disease

Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol. 1998 Feb;109(1):73-7. doi: 10.1016/s0924-980x(97)00073-8.


In young healthy subjects, initially large stretch responses in leg muscles are progressively attenuated following a series of identical postural perturbations. We have studied whether this habituation of stretch responses is impaired in Parkinson's disease. Ten patients and 10 elderly controls received 10 serial 'toe-up' rotational perturbations (amplitude 10 degrees) while standing on a supporting forceplate. We recorded posturally destabilizing medium latency (ML) stretch responses from the medial gastrocnemius muscle. Functional habituation across the first few trials occurred in patients, but not in elderly controls. The rate of habituation was influenced by the size of the response to the first perturbation. This observation explained the absence of habituation in elderly subjects because their responses during the first few trials were much smaller compared to patients. These results suggest that habituation of lower leg stretch responses is unimpaired in Parkinson's disease. The presence of initially large and 'unpracticed' responses may partially explain why Parkinson patients fall in response to unexpected postural disturbances that commonly occur in daily life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Reflex, Stretch / physiology*