The Ia afferent feedback of a given movement evokes the illusion of the same movement when returned to the subject via muscle tendon vibration

Exp Brain Res. 2006 Jun;172(2):163-74. doi: 10.1007/s00221-005-0325-2. Epub 2006 Jan 19.


The aim of the present study was to further investigate the contribution of primary muscle spindle feedback to proprioception and higher brain functions, such as movement trajectory recognition. For this purpose, complex illusory movements were evoked in subjects by applying patterns of muscle tendon vibration mimicking the natural Ia afferent pattern. Ia afferent messages were previously recorded using microneurographic method from the six main muscle groups acting on the ankle joint during imposed "writing like" movements. The mean Ia afferent pattern was calculated for each muscle group and used as a template to pilot each vibrator. Eleven different vibratory patterns were applied to ten volunteers. Subjects were asked both to copy the perceived illusory movements by hand on a digitizing tablet and to recognize and name the corresponding graphic symbol. The results show that the Ia afferent feedback of a given movement evokes the illusion of the same movement when it is applied to the subject via the appropriate pattern of muscle tendon vibration. The geometry and the kinematic parameters of the imposed and illusory movements are very similar and the so-called "two-thirds power law" is present in the reproduction of the vibration-induced illusory movements. Vibrations within the "natural" frequency range of Ia fibres firing (around 30 Hz) produce clear illusions of movements in all the tested subjects. In addition, increasing the mean frequency of the vibration patterns resulted in a linear increase in the size of the illusory movements. Lastly, the subjects were able to recognize and name the symbols evoked by the vibration-induced primary muscle spindle afferent patterns in 83% of the trials. These findings suggest that the "proprioceptive signature" of a given movement is associated with the corresponding "perceptual signature". The neural mechanisms possibly underlying the sensory to perceptual transformation are discussed in the general framework of "the neuronal population vector model".

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle Joint / anatomy & histology
  • Ankle Joint / physiology
  • Feedback / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illusions*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle Spindles / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Proprioception / physiology
  • Tendons / physiology*
  • Vibration
  • Writing