The responses of human muscle spindle endings to vibration during isometric contraction

J Physiol. 1976 Oct;261(3):695-711. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1976.sp011581.


1. An human subjects, vibration of amplitude 1-5 mm and frequency 20-220 Hz was applied to the tendons of muscles in the leg to examine the effects on the discharge of primary and secondary endings during manoeuvres designed to alter the level of fusimotor drive. 2. In four experiments, the peroneal nerve was completely blocked with lidocaine proximal to the recording site in order to de-efferent spindle endings temporarily. The responses to muscle stretch and vibration, as seen in multi-unit recordings and in single unit recordings, were similar during the block as in the relaxed state prior to the block. Thus, these experiments provided no evidence for a functionally effective resting fusimotor drive. 3. The responses to vibration of nine primary endings and four secondary endings were examined during isometric voluntary contractions of the receptor-bearing muscles. Providing that the endings were responding submaximally in the relaxed state, voluntary contraction enhanced the response to vibration, suggesting co-activation of the fusimotor system sufficient to compensate for mechanical unloading. Unloading effects were observed during contractions of neighbouring synergistic muscles, indicating a close spatial relationship between the co-activated skeletomotor and fusimotor outflows. 4. Recordings were obtained from ten primary endings and seven secondary endings during isometric reflex contractions resulting from the vibratory stimulus (TVR contractions). For twelve endings, the appearance of the tonic vibration reflex in the receptor-bearing muscle resulted in a significant decrease in the response to vibration, suggesting that the endings were unloaded by the extrafusal contraction. On voluntary suppression of the reflex contraction spindle responses reverted to their previous levels. 5. These results suggest that the tonic vibration reflex, like the tendon jerk reflex, operates predominantly or exclusively on alpha motoneurones and that it does not utilize the same cortically originating efferent pathways as are used in the performance of voluntary contractions.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Lidocaine / pharmacology
  • Mechanoreceptors / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscle Spindles / drug effects
  • Muscle Spindles / physiology*
  • Nerve Block
  • Reflex, Stretch
  • Vibration*


  • Lidocaine