Modulation of cutaneous reflexes by load receptor input during human walking

Exp Brain Res. 2000 Nov;135(2):189-98. doi: 10.1007/s002210000511.


To investigate the influence of load on the modulation of cutaneous reflexes, evoked by sural nerve stimulation, electromyographic activity in different leg muscles (tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius medialis (GM), biceps femoris, and soleus muscles (SO)) was recorded in healthy humans during treadmill walking with different body loads. Sural nerve stimulation was applied at two times perception threshold during different phases of the step cycle. Reflex amplitudes increased with body unloading and decreased with body loading. The reflex responses were not a simple function of the level of background activity. For example, in GM and SO, the largest reflex responses occurred during walking with body unloading, when background activity was decreased. Hence, stable ground conditions (body loading) yielded smaller reflexes. It is proposed that load receptors are involved in the regulation of cutaneous reflex responses in order to adapt the locomotor pattern to the environmental conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena*
  • Sural Nerve / physiology
  • Walking / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology*