Optimal feedback control and the long-latency stretch response

Exp Brain Res. 2012 May;218(3):341-59. doi: 10.1007/s00221-012-3041-8. Epub 2012 Feb 28.


There has traditionally been a separation between voluntary control processes and the fast feedback responses which follow mechanical perturbations (i.e., stretch "reflexes"). However, a recent theory of motor control, based on optimal control, suggests that voluntary motor behavior involves the sophisticated manipulation of sensory feedback. We have recently proposed that one implication of this theory is that the long-latency stretch "reflex", like voluntary control, should support a rich assortment of behaviors because these two processes are intimately linked through shared neural circuitry including primary motor cortex. In this review, we first describe the basic principles of optimal feedback control related to voluntary motor behavior. We then explore the functional properties of upper-limb stretch responses, with a focus on how the sophistication of the long-latency stretch response rivals voluntary control. And last, we describe the neural circuitry that underlies the long-latency stretch response and detail the evidence that primary motor cortex participates in sophisticated feedback responses to mechanical perturbations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Feedback, Sensory / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Muscle Spindles / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology*
  • Reflex, Stretch / physiology*